LA Times Interview with Yanukovich

Megan Stack of the Los Angeles Times has an interesting interview with the likely winner of today’s elections in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.

You have said that you would keep Ukraine out of NATO, and also that you believe integration into the EU is in Ukraine’s strategic interests. Why one and not the other?

Integration into the EU is connected with making the lives of people better: economics, the defense of human rights, the development of the country in the direction of democratic values. This is in the interest of the majority of people, that Ukrainians should enjoy European standards of living. People are also looking for the harmonization of the Ukrainian legal system, to have the same rights and freedoms as in Europe.

Joining NATO, from the point of view of Ukrainians, will politically destabilize us, especially taking into account the closeness of another [Russian-led] defense system on our borders. Ukrainian folk believe that Ukraine must preserve its neutral status, and must not join any military organization. This is proved by polls.

Meanwhile we believe that Ukraine has to build a partnership with NATO using the principles of those EU countries that are not members of NATO. We believe that Ukraine can and must take an active part in the creation of a European collective defense system. And also must support the initiatives of both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thereis a long-standing perception that your ties to Moscow are strong, andyou’ve been a supporter of [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin. How is yourrelationship with Russia now?

I’ve always had a pragmatic, stable relationship with Russia, and ithas stayed the same now. I really do think the relations betweenUkraine and Russia must be friendly. This is what both the Russian andUkrainian nations want.

Yourmain competition in this campaign has been [Ukrainian Prime Minister]Yulia Tymoshenko. What is your opinion of Tymoshenko, and what kind ofpresident would she be?

I think that for the last five years, the politics of Tymoshenko havebeen false. The politics of Tymoshenko and [current President Viktor]Yushchenko brought us economic and political instability in Ukraine,and made the international image of Ukraine suffer around the world.These politics made Ukraine blow up its obligations to the EU and alsodestabilized relations with Russia.

And how would she be as president?

Impossible to forecast. (Laughs)