MEP Libor Rouček in Ukraine: what is at stake is the country’s unity and economic survival

Kiev, photo: CTK

The eyes of the world are on Ukraine where a new political leadership is forming in the aftermath of the bloody revolution that ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich from power. Czech MEP Libor Roucek is part of a European Parliament delegation currently negotiating with the key political players in Kiev. I spoke to Mr. Rouček over the phone on Monday and first enquired about the situation in the city.

Kiev,  photo: CTK
“The situation in Kiev is calm. There are still protesters at the Maidan and they will likely stay there but the situation in the city is calm. Today is Monday, a normal working day, so you see people going to work using their private cars, public transport or walking. But the situation is calm. As far as politics is concerned the times are really hectic, because within a couple of days they have to set up a government, what is at stake of course is the unity of the country but what is also at stake is to prevent the country’s financial collapse. The situation is not good. We just heard from Mr. Jacenyuk, the likely next prime minister, that before the end of February the country needs four billion dollars otherwise it will go bankrupt.”

You are there as an MEP –what can the European Union offer Ukraine now to help the country?

“Today the EU foreign policy chief Ms. Ashton will visit Kiev and she will come with a financial offer, but what is needed is to have a stable government, a government which will introduce reforms which will be painful of course, the government will need to raise taxes and cut subsidies which will be painful for the Ukrainian people, but this is necessary otherwise the country will go bankrupt.”

Can the EU offer enough for the country not to turn to Russia for help as an alternative?

Libor Rouček,  photo: Czech Television
“I think what is needed is concerted action by both the European Union and the IMF but also Russia has to participate by at least keeping prices on the level that was agreed with the former president Yanukovich. Because if gas prices were to go up the situation would be even worse or if Gasprom were to demand the repayment of a 2 billion dollar debt –money which Ukraine does not have – the problems would deepen. “

Who are you actually negotiating with there right now?

“We just met with the new head of state, the speaker of Parliament Mr. Oleksander Turchinov, this morning we also met Mr. Arseniy Jacenyuk, last nigh we had dinner with Mr. Klitschko –so we are talking to the major players. Also with Mr. Poroshenko, one of the new important players in the country today. “

Is it clear who is in charge and are they cooperating?

“Yes, they are cooperating. In charge is Mr. Turchinov who is not only speaker of the house but yesterday Parliament gave him the powers of the head of state. The new government should be formed within a day or two…so that’s where we are …it is a revolutionary situation –everything is moving fast as we discuss it, but the situation is pressing and they have to move fast.”

I understand that you were also going to meet with opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Did that meeting take place?

Yulia Tymoshenko,  photo: CTK
“We were supposed to meet with Yulia Tymoshenko but she is not in the best state of health so to say, she is also visiting her mother in Dnepropetrovsk and I also think that after she came to Kiev and addressed the Maidan she is now considering what to do, she has to make herself more familiar with the current situation because she spent two and a half years in jail and the situation changed during that time.”

The former president Viktor Yanukovich has disappeared somewhere in the eastern part of the country – do we know anything of his whereabouts?

“The former president has disappeared and just over an hour ago the new interior minister issued an international warrant for his arrest and according to some sources he is in Crimea in a place called Balaklava.”