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Ex-Prime Minister of Ukraine Settling Scores with Merkel and EU

After the Maidan uprising, Nikolai Asarow, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, fled to Moscow. Now he’s dreaming about returning to power.


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The article originally appeared at Der Spiegel. Translated for RI by Mihajlo Doknic

A gigantic Lenin statue arises over one of the main arterial roads and just opposite there it is: The Russian Ministry of internal affairs. In an apartment block [Soviet style architecture] with hundreds of apartments and offices, Nikolai Asarow, former head of the state’s budget and economy in Ukraine is going after his daily business.

<figcaption>Nikolai Asarov, former prime minister of Ukraine: "Is Chancellor Merkel backing the right people?"</figcaption>
Nikolai Asarov, former prime minister of Ukraine: "Is Chancellor Merkel backing the right people?"

A year ago he had to flee to Moscow after he was swept out of office by the ‘people’s revolt’. His office is smaller now than his former outer office while he was Prime Minister.

Asarow wants to change this. It is clear, that he is dreaming about re-joining the great game on Ukraine. Talking for the first time to Western media he presented - in conversation with SPIEGEL ONLINE - the idea of a ‚technical transitional government’ in Kiev that needs to be accepted in all regions in Ukraine.

‚Otherwise Ukraine will break up. In the East and in the South millions don’t accept the new authorities in Kiev. As long as those people are not represented in the political system freedom will remain an ‘illusion’, Asarow says. ‚Those who lost relatives during the fights with the regime [authorities in Kiev] and their shelling by the artillery, aren’t going to deal with the current government in Kiev’. Therefore he is very skeptical when it comes to Minsk II that was brokered by chancellor Merkel and the French president Hollande between Kiev and Moscow. Asarow announced that he is going to set up a ‚Coordination Council’, that will include all those who oppose the current government in Kiev.

‚Idiots and fraudsters’

Not only Asarow and the Ex president Viktor Yanukovich fled to Moscow but also many other members of the old government, like the Minister for internal affairs and the Head of intelligence. ‚However, the Coordination Council is not supposed to be an exile government, rather a body that is sending its members to ‘become’ members of the new government [technical transitional government]’, Asarov stated. Yanukovich, however, should not be part of this council, because he lost all credibility with the people’.

Asarow can hardly conceal his anger about the loss of power and status. He calls President Petro Poroshenko, the chocolate tycoon who also financed Maidan, a ‚fraudster’ and Prime Minister Jazenjuk an ‚idiot’. ‚Both where still learning how to tie their shoes, when I was part of the government’, he complained.

Chancellor Merkel needs to ask herself, if she is really backing the right people in Kiev. ‚Although Ukraine is facing bankruptcy Poroshenko and Jazenjuk have announced to built up an army with some 250.000 soldiers. Not understanding, that they need twice as many well-trained officers, barracks and weapons. Who is going to pay for this?, asks Asarow. Bundeswehr [German Army] has some 180.000 soldiers and the Polish army some 120.000.

‚Financial Deceptive Packaging by Germany and EU’

The former politician is accusing the German government and the EU of operating with a, what he calls, financial deceptive package, before Maidan and these days as well. ‚Although the EU made us chose between Moscow and Brussels, they aren’t willing to provide Ukraine with the necessary 20bn dollars annually as a minimum needed for Ukraine to survive. And I’m not even talking here about the necessary modernization of the economy’. Indeed, the ongoing negotiations for loans and debt refunding are very tough.

Ukrainian products are neither welcome nor competitive on European markets, not then and not now. At the same time the Russian market broke away, Asarow explains, that In 2012 the trade volume between Russia and Ukraine was 55bn dollar, which was some 40% of total Ukrainian foreign trade volume.

The former Prime Minister angrily describes a meeting with the then EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht that took place at the peak of EU-Association agreement negotiations. It would have tied Ukraine to the EU, but the refusal by the then government led to mass demonstrations and the Maidan ‚bloodbath’. ‚I asked De Gucht: Is EU going to buy our railway tracks? No, was the answer. Our wagons? No. Our airplanes? No. Our engines? No. Always just NO’, Asarow recalled.

President Putin on the other hand gave Ukraine a 15bn dollar loan. Asarow, a technocrat and economy expert was considered Moscow’s man in Kiev. ‚This is nonsense. I am just good in math and EU just wasn’t prepared to transfer the needed billions. They basically made us look for help somewhere else’, he says.

Comment from the translator:

Spiegel Online did it again..!, one is inclined to say.

This time, however, the other way around. We are all used to the very one-sided reporting by Spiegel [and German main stream media in general]. Last week, however, something remarkably happened. Three stories in Spiegel Online, that are – to some extent – covering the ‘other side’. It started with an article about ‘the chancellery accusing Breedlove’ of ‘exaggerating’ Russia’s military involvement in East Ukraine. They even called it ‘propaganda’. Then they had Helmut Schmidt [former German Chancellor] voice his views, a man who has been calling for rapprochement with Russia and for taking into consideration Russia’s legitimate interests. And now this: Allowing former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Asarow, state his views on the events in Ukraine.

So, does this mean they (German mainstream media) have come to their senses…?

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