Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine: “Putin is not crazy, he is rationalized evil with a defined plan” | International
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At five o’clock in the morning on February 24, politics in Ukraine ended. This is how Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of the country, describes at least what happened shortly after Russia began its military offensive that morning in various parts of the territory, including the capital, kyiv, where she was. She promptly went to the offices of Volodymyr Zelensky in the center of the city. “The president and I,” she says in an interview with EL PAÍS, “we met and shook hands.” Timoshenko, 61, leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party, defends that this “union” between the head of state and opponents like herself or former president Petro Poroshenko is alive and is the “strength” of Ukraine. With a nuance: “After the victory [en la guerra]”, he continues from the headquarters of his training, in a neighborhood of the capital on the banks of the Dnieper River, “Ukraine will need reforms, deep transformations, a different distribution of powers so that it is a country worthy of NATO and the European Union; We see no other way.”
Until the coming to power of Zelensky, a comedy actor, immersed in a war that has forced him to be the face of the people’s resistance, a sort of unexpected hero against Vladimir Putin, Tymoshenko, twice the country’s prime minister and candidate obstinate to the presidency, she was one of the faces of Ukraine better known in the rest of the world. Her political trajectory in the last two decades, extraordinary, even includes almost three years in prison for corruption charges from which she was finally rehabilitated. But to all this she also helps, without a doubt, her hair braided around her crown, an unforgettable hallmark for public opinion.
Ask. How are you after more than five months of war?
Response. No one in Ukraine this right. There are dozens of people dead, cities destroyed, 14 million displaced… It’s a tragedy, life is divided between before and after the war, that’s why now no Ukrainian feels good. It is painful, but at the same time it is a pride to be part of this brave people, part of this force that has united the world against evil.
Timoshenko, a native of Dnipro, the country’s fourth-largest city, now hit by Russian artillery on the eastern front, speaks from a classic dark hardwood office. A Ukrainian flag with a pole of more than two meters guards his desk next to two bookshelves. In one, dozens of books, including the biographies of the Iron lady Margaret Thatcher, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Lady Di and US Senator John McCain, with whom she has a framed photo. On the other shelf rest religious paintings, from top to bottom.
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The leader of Batkivshchina, with 24 seats in the Verjovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament), has always been noted for her criticism of Moscow. She led, among other politicians, the protest movement against the fraud in the elections held in Ukraine in 2004. Thanks to the so-called Orange Revolution, Viktor Yushenko finally achieved the presidency to the detriment of the pro-Russian candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. It was then that Timoshenko exercised for the first time, although only for a few months, the head of government. Magazine Forbes ranked her as the fifth most powerful woman in the world. It was also then that she had to meet with Putin to prevent Moscow from cutting off the gas tap.
P. At the beginning of the invasion, it was said that he was on a Kremlin list of targets to kill. Were you afraid?
R. The head of state, iconic politicians, party leaders, ministers, deputies, they are all on this list, but my team and I have stayed in kyiv and we are always in the hot spots of the war. There was fear in the first days, that cannot be hidden, but it turned into the feeling that if we didn’t defend ourselves, nobody would. In the first weeks and months, with the offensive in kyiv, nobody knew how it was going to end, but neither my team nor I, nor the president nor the ministers left kyiv. We know how to handle weapons and if that were the case, we would fight in the streets.
P. What do you think Putin is looking for?
R. I know this person very well because we collaborated when I was Prime Minister, we had agreements and issues in common. From what I know of him, his goals are broader than you can imagine. He wants to change the world order, to prevent the West from continuing to lead and for this coalition to do so instead. [de países aliados] that it has formed and that is partially public. He wants to modify the borders of the weak States to advance and continue with the offensive of his empire. Ukraine is the first step and this is where we have to stop this threat to the whole world.
P. In fact, you knew him, and there are few who have. How is the Russian president?
R. He is a person with inordinate ambitions, which go beyond running Russia. He aspires to global leadership. What we have seen so far is just a first taste of these ambitions. Some they claim he is crazy, but he is not correct, he is rationalized evil acting according to a definite plan. Its strength lies in the fact that it easily crosses all red lines, violates all international rules, norms and standards, and also in the weakness of the collective response of the West.
Timoshenko looks into the eyes and speaks slowly, with his hands on the table, marking the rhythm of the words. He talks about this West, about Europe, where the majority of favorites in the last elections, held in 2019, leaned and today, with more reason, they continue to lean. During that campaign, the former prime minister became a clear favorite. But Zelenski’s communicative force passed like a hurricane and swept the polls with more than 70% of the votes. The two had political fights on social networks, but that is from another time. Now is the war.
P. Are you afraid that Europeans, in the midst of an economic crisis, will forget Ukraine?
R. It will be impossible to forget it, as long as the war continues the sanctions will not be lifted. It will hit the economy, the energy sector, the social sector. These problems can only come to an end with the end of the war and that is why it cannot be delayed. You have to gather your forces into a fist, stock up on weapons and defeat the Russian army, which would mean overthrowing Putin. Europe now has another threat, the capture of the Zaporizhia plant, very dangerous because it is ten times larger than Chernobyl. The Kremlin is blackmailing Europe with the possible explosion of this plant. That is why it is not a war of others, but of all Europeans.
P. Ukraine, the Government and the political parties ask for more weapons. Is Europe late?
R. Victory equals weapons, and weapons equals victory. They are inseparable things. If the free world wants to end this war, it must supply Ukraine with the necessary weapons for the counteroffensive. Now there are not enough weapons. Some world leaders believe that not sending weapons will force Ukraine to make peace, but this is the wrong view; on the contrary, that will not end the war, but will prolong it. These leaders who believe that weapons should not be sent are actually destroying their energy, social and economic sectors and giving their opponents, sometimes pro-Russian, options to win. That is why it is urgent to help Ukraine. By not giving weapons to Ukraine they act against their own countries.
Politicians and analysts in Ukraine foresee a very different political scenario when the war ends. Reforms, new leaders, new parties… Tymoshenko has run for the presidential elections three times, with clear options, but ultimately without success. He has a hard time answering the question of whether he will do it again. “Once the war is over,” he finally answers, “we will propose a concrete renewal plan. If the Ukrainian society accepts, yes, we will propose the candidacy”.
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