Nadiya Savchenko, videotaped on Shuster Live by journalist and TV host Savik Shuster on independent 3S.tv
Transcript, translation and subtitles by Voices of Ukraine
On June 3, 2016, Nadiya Savchenko appeared on Shuster Live, to talk about her first few days in the Verkhovna Rada, her thoughts on the war in Donbas, and whether she would shake hands with Vladimir Putin.
Watch the videos, or read the transcript below.
Video with English subtitles, Part 1:
Video with English subtitles, Part 2:
Savik Shuster: I now invite Nadya Savchenko into the studio.
(Nadiya Savchenko joins the show.)
Shuster: Nadiya, this audience is all of Ukraine. Our sociologists work on this every week, and, by all sociological criteria, the people here represent a real portrait of the Ukrainian people today. Of course, it’s difficult for us to even imagine what you went through. Everything happened so quickly for you: army, Maidan, war, Russian prison… And now you’re in the Parliament, on such an important day – when amendments to the Constitution are being passed.
Nadiya Savchenko: Yes, it was fast, indeed.
Shuster: Fast. Well-
Nadiya: It was like flying a bomber plane.
Shuster: Tell me, these two years of prison, of not knowing, are they still with you? On the inside?
Nadiya: (pauses) I’m coming back to my senses.
Shuster: Today, the President spoke about your liberation at a large press-conference.
Petro Poroshenko, on video, at the press-conference: The date of Nadiya’s return was moved five times, after everything had already been agreed. The first date was fixed when I announced, while in Turkey, that I’m ready to take political responsibility upon myself, and exercise my constitutional right to pardon two Russian Spetsnaz fighters.
It was a very difficult decision. I especially want our foreign journalists to understand this. Because these Spetsnaz fighters were killing Ukrainian warriors. Unlike Nadiya, who was absolutely innocent.
Then, they offered to hand over Nadiya for the execution of her punishment. I said that this method was unacceptable. I think I spoke with Russian President Putin three times about this, on the phone. Maryna, my wife, corresponded with the U.S. First Lady. Viktor Medvedchuk, in the trilateral contact group, has one sole function: liberation of hostages kept in the Russian Federation, first of all, and in occupied territories. Was he involved in the process of liberating Nadiya Savchenko? Yes, he was involved. In two instances, he coordinated individual efforts with the Russian side. But the decision was made during the phone conversation between Putin and myself.
Shuster: Nadiya, did this information reach you in any way? About all the diplomatic efforts made for your freedom?
Nadiya: I heard rumors. I can’t call that information. I could only get information from the Consuls, and from my lawyers. I heard nothing about any specific decision, and got no information. I wasn’t certain of anything until the last minute.
Shuster: Till the last minute?
Shuster: You said that you spent the last few hours in a paddy wagon, not knowing where you would be taken.
Shuster: And, did no one say a word-
Nadiya: No, they did tell me – it’s all good, you’re going to Ukraine, you’re going home. But who would believe them after they kidnapped me into Russia?
Shuster: The people that were around you in prison, did you feel any warmth from them?
Nadiya: Yes. It varied. Prisoners, convoy, prison guards – every person has their own opinion. So their treatment of me varied. Some of it was good. I did feel some support.
Shuster: Nadiya, in Ukraine – and even in Russia – there was a lot of talk about your return being an explosion for Ukraine’s political system, that [Ukrainian] political leaders weren’t too interested in your return… Did you have any thoughts like that?
Nadiya: If I am really going to be a ballistic rocket or a time bomb, then, clearly, I will be that to the enemy, not to my own country. No, I won’t tear Ukraine apart. That’s not what I’m here for. That’s not what I live for, and not what I returned for.
Shuster: At the very first press conference after your liberation, you said… There was a question about this, and you answered directly: that if the Ukrainian people ask you to serve as the President of Ukraine, you would agree. Do you have that ambition, or the wish, to be the leader of this county?
Nadiya: I want to fly. I want to fly. But I will do what I must. I want Ukraine to be strong. I want my people to have hope, faith, and a dignified life. Wherever I need to be to make that happen, I will be there. I really don’t like it when these political intrigues try to match me with various chairs. I’m not an all-cure for every disease. I have no ambition to be a tsar. I don’t want to be a saint. I’m not a saint. I’m a regular person. I will do what every person will do. And together, we will succeed.
Shuster: Nadiya, as I said before, the army, Maidan, everything happening so fast… The war, the prison, and now, your return… Does it feel like you return to a different country? Has Ukraine changed? After Maidan? And after the war? Well, not yet “after” the war, unfortunately.
Nadiya: Yes, it has changed. It has changed for the better. I am altogether pleasantly surprised by meetings with people who say intelligent things. People who show, even in their eyes, that they will not tolerate humiliation. They will not bow to anyone. They carry themselves with dignity. They don’t view me as a… hero, or something. They view me as an equal. As someone who will stand by their side. This is very pleasant for me. I see that people have learned to act for themselves.
That is, we’re still shouting about the government – and we will keep shouting, because that’s the way things are, what we shout is true. But the people have learned to start with themselves. I saw that my country changed for the better. I’ll give you an example. I mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again. About the police.
On my first day, I came up to the Verkhovna Rada, I went for a walk, and saw policemen. I looked at them: they have different eyes. Before, those with power would always look down on the people, you know? But these guys, they stand there and look you directly in the eyes, into your very soul. And when I asked them – have you got enough motivation? He looked at me and said – did YOU have enough? I answered – I could do it without the motivation. He said – so why are you asking me?
I liked that he felt humiliated by my question, and he immediately fought back. That means we can fight back against anyone who tries to humiliate us.
Shuster: After your return to your homeland, you said – I’m not yet sure where I returned to. Where I ended up, even. Where you ended up was a vote on the virtually most important issue: amendments to the Constitution relating to judicial authority. Yesterday, in the Parliament, this was your stance:
Nadiya, on video, in the Parliament: We must make an important decision today. It is clear that judicial changes are necessary. And everyone understands that the bill is still raw. But we took it on for a first reading. If we had a chance to work with it, make good and necessary additions to it…
What is happening with it now? We’re making changes to the Constitution. Let me explain. Those who know what a grenade is can imagine. For the rest of you, I’ll show a wrist builder.
Ukraine is a grenade right now. It has a pin – the Constitution. Correction, the Constitution is the ring. The pin is our Donbas. The grenade’s body is our Ukraine. If, after making changes to the Constitution, the government will be able to maintain Ukraine’s integrity – then we can make those changes right now. If we’re not ready, this is what will happen.
Our “pin” – Donbas, L/DNR – will come to us and say, “You made changes to the Constitution. Well, here’s our own Constitution, written by the Russian Federation. Accept it.” Then the body of Ukraine, the body of the grenade will come forward, and there will be a Maidan. And we’ll be torn apart, you see? (drops “grenade”)
I will be voting against the amendments to the Constitution. When there’s a war – hands off the Constitution! The Constitution protects itself!
Shuster: And today, you said the following words.
Nadiya: I feel a bit weird watching this, I haven’t seen myself from the outside. I don’t have the time to watch this on the Internet or the TV. This is my first chance to see this. Alright.
Shuster: These were your words today.
Nadiya (on video, being interviewed): For instance, there’s a deputy [MP] putting forward amendments to the pension reform. Or to some pension-related law. She speaks beautifully, I listen to her and realize – yes, that’s the right thing to do. I press “Vote For.”
Then I realize something, and I just yank my voting card out. I say – show me this amendment. They show it to me, and… I can’t understand how deputies can act like this. What she said does not match up with the amendment at all. The amendment is for the worse, while she spoke about such great improvements.
Unless I’d read this, unless I’d seen it… I had already voted yes, I pulled my card out on sheer intuition, because, unfortunately, I am familiar with this deputy from the time when I was among the people… I am still among the people. So I just yanked it out.
I read it, and- I’m going to come up to her and tell her – if I hear such nonsense one more time in the Verkhovna Rada… If this is the way the Rada works, then we… Pardon me, but we are [BLEEP]-ing people over, every single day. Me, I don’t want to work like this.
Shuster: So, my question is, DO you understand where you ended up?
Nadiya: Do I understand where I ended up? (chuckles) First of all, I should learn to be more cultured and better-behaved, I’m still a little savage.
It’s true: army, war, Maidan… My sister keeps calling me G.I. Jane. But I’m going to be a politician, representing Ukraine in Europe, in the West, in the world – so I will learn to speak more moderately, at least. I will work on this. Yes.
What I said about my pulling out the voting card on intuition, that’s true. You’re asking me if I understand where I ended up. I can feel where I ended up. I don’t want to believe it. I promised myself, and I said it many times, that I would not criticize politicians when I become one myself, until I’ve accomplished something.
A person must learn how to do things, and how to make mistakes. To correct their mistakes, and to learn from them. One week is a very short time. Our deputies, of this convocation, have already had two years. I, unfortunately, spent that time in prison, and was marked as “absent” at the sessions.
I don’t have a lot of time, but I will learn very fast. To start talking badly about someone, I must first do something well myself. This is why I will keep quiet about this.
I feel the way things are. I am neither blind nor stupid. For now, I am, indeed, working intuitively. But I have always lived my life by my gut feeling. I listened to my gut in battle, and in the army, and when I fought against things. You feel things are unjust, and you can’t overlook them.
If this is the person that the people, that Ukraine, saw me as, if this is the person that the Ukrainian people trust – then this is the person I will stay. It won’t happen any other way. I don’t want to do it any other way.
Shuster: Nadiya, you called the current Verkhovna Rada the Titanic.
Shuster: Is it sinking?
Shuster: Is it sinking?
Nadiya: After Maidan, we extended a great trust credit to this government. I was at Maidan myself, I became part of the government in my absence, as I already said, but I heard what was going on. The Consuls and my lawyers told me.
It was very difficult after Maidan in 2004. With that in mind, it was very important not to lose faith. I am glad that this time, we prevailed. We conquered this height. We did not lose faith. Now the most important thing is not to crash.
We learned to hold this platform. We learned to understand it, we know black from white. Now we mustn’t crash down from here.
Is our government the Titanic? Hm. Overall, I’ve been told by deputies that my statements, about grenades, or the Titanic… They told me – do you realize that very few of the deputies have ever seen a grenade? As for the Titanic, they know it’s a movie with Leonardo Dicaprio, but few know it really sank. This is why I’ll need to find different metaphors to get my meaning across to the deputies. But, in reality, I feel that the people have heard me, exactly in these words. And that is probably more important than being heard by the deputies. Unfortunately. Because even if the deputies hear me, they will still do things their own way.
Is this government the Titanic? Yes, it’s the Titanic. Is it sinking? Yes, it’s sinking. That is my gut feeling right now. And while the earlier governments had the time to escape somewhere on a cruiser – some to one foreign country, some to another – I think that on this Titanic, the people won’t let a single rat escape from the ship. And I believe that’s correct.
The government must understand they are accountable for their actions. Even after they’ve done things, even after their term is over.
Shuster: So, if it’s the Titanic, and it’s sinking, we’re talking about the political elite, a certain political generation – that is on its way out. Who will come in their place? Are there specialists? Are there new faces, new people who can take Ukraine in their hands and continue developing it?
Nadiya: It’s a very interesting question. You know… Our politicians… Yes, a generation of people, a generation of politicians, is being raised right now.
We had generations of politicians starting from the dissident movement. I won’t go deep into history – politicians can be regarded in the Kozatstvo [governing body of free Kozaks], this was also politics. They’re all different. They have different mottos and different ideals. Recently, we’ve had a screwed-up generation of politicians. New blood is necessary.
This Verkhovna Rada has people who can think outside the box. Unfortunately, their understanding of politics is still very much inside the box.
When some people come up to me and say they want to be my deputy assistant, [knowing people a little as I do], and if they are people I know, I tell them: “Yes, you’re the person for this job. You have every quality needed to be a politician. You’re clever, you’re dynamic, you can do everything. There’s just one problem: you already don’t have the kind of core that Ukraine needs right now. You’re rotten from the inside. You will come here, and you will start doing the exact same things people were doing before you. Because you were taught by the previous generation.”
I want to see people who will learn, who will go with their gut. Who will take from the past, knowing exactly where to cut it off, how to avoid taking something rotten. Who will face forward, and will understand that they need to find creative solutions that have never been found before. Because our Ukraine will only be saved by something never seen before. At least, that’s what I want to believe. Maybe this is poetry, philosophy, or just my hopes – I don’t know HOW we’re going to make it.
You know, when I was leaving the prison, I was saying to [Mark] Feygin, my lawyer: I’m sick of staying here, but I’m also scared to get out. I understood what was waiting for me. People described everything in their letters to me, I had the full picture.
He told me: “Nadiya, just get out of here, and you will see how you will manage at things. You won’t even understand how you’re doing it.”
I hope this will truly be so. But we do need to understand. We need to think. We need to act. We will learn together.
Shuster: How are you getting along with your party leader, Yuliya Tymoshenko? There was a report that you didn’t want to accept flowers from her, when you landed.
Nadiya: You know, I didn’t want to accept flowers from anyone. Please understand: two years in solitary. I forgot what tactile feelings are like. I was only touched when being searched. It’s not a pleasant feeling, when you shudder when anyone touches you. Barely anyone talked to me. Of all my muscles, my tongue and vocal cords didn’t get much use.
This is why I didn’t accept flowers from anyone. Maybe some people were offended by it. I was told – you should take them. But I think that’s unnecessary. I don’t like these grand gestures. If you see me- People see me, they recognize me, they just smile at me – that’s it, that’s enough for us to understand each other, simply by sharing a look. There’s no need to waste time on all this…
Similarly, I didn’t accept any flowers- I don’t recall Yuliya Volodymyrivna giving me a bouquet. I was very emotional and confused at the time, maybe some of my reactions were too sharp, too direct. I remember that Yuliya Volodymyrivna offered her hand to me, and I shook it. We greeted each other. When she offered to hug me, I told her, “I’m sorry, Yuliya Volodymyrivna, I’m not going to hug anyone right now.” She understood me, because she has also been in prison. She understood me very well.
I didn’t hug anyone, I didn’t take flowers from anyone. My assistants, my sisters, my mother, they walked with me and accepted the flowers for me. Why was Yuliya Volodymyrivna singled out? It’s easy to see why – everyone wants to see the dirtiest laundry, for some reason. They don’t want to see that someone might have a pure soul.
Think outside the box. Learn to see through all this clutter – it gets in the way. You’re looking in the wrong place.
Shuster: Nadiya, a personal question. When you started the dry hunger strike… Did you feel that something irreversible might happen?
Nadiya: Frankly speaking, I didn’t care.
Look. I didn’t want freedom that would cost too much for Ukraine. And make sure you don’t cut this sentence in half and quote me as saying “I didn’t want freedom,” I know this can happen.
I didn’t want to cost too much to Ukraine. Because a human life can only be exchanged for a human life, that’s my opinion. Exchanging everyone for everyone, or one for one. The fact that two persons were exchanged for me… Everyone has their opinion on this. Some think it was the right thing to do, that I’m worth more; some think it was wrong, because they killed… Unfortunately-
You have to understand, it’s not just any two people that were handed over. When these Russian GRU officers were captured, our guys died. So my life, my freedom, came at the price of other lives. That wasn’t the only time. In battle, a guy protected me. Again, I kept my life at the cost of his.
I didn’t want my freedom to harm all of Ukraine. If the price was too high: like the Minsk agreements, or pushing through some unnecessary, shameful, destructive reforms for Ukraine. I didn’t want this.
There were times when I felt I would rather die for Ukraine than survive. Then came a turning point when I realized that it would be better to live, that I didn’t have the right to die anymore.
The dry hunger strike, well… Don’t ask me how I did it. I was just doing what I was doing. Sometimes, it’s easier to do things than to stop yourself doing them.
Because when you look at… Yes, it’s you doing the hunger strike. It’s you who feels bad physically. But when you look at those around you, staring at you with shocked faces: how is she doing this?? And they’re mad, because if she can, then so can Ukraine!
Then you feel so good, that you’re ready to run yourself further and further into the ground, without pity!
And it really was great, because eating there was disgusting. When you’re in the cell, and being looked at, eating feels like… Really, I’m not anorexic, I’m not bulimic, I’ve never dieted, I’m very far from that whole notion. I love to eat! Now, I am eating and enjoying every bite. But back there, [not eating] was as easy as breathing. Easy for the soul.
Shuster: Nadiya, there was a lot said about President Vladimir Putin needing you alive. That for him, it was: “god forbid, that something should happen to you.” When you were already on dry hunger strike, did you feel that all your security, all the people around you, were actually afraid: God forbid something should happen to you?
Nadiya: Yes. In reality, even in my first dry hunger strike, I think it was 2015… Somewhere around day 60-70, I realized they really do need me alive. Because…
Well, prisoners have different kinds of hunger strikes, it’s a method of protest. Some declare a hunger strike, but still eat – and everyone understands that. Some, if they want to go on a hunger strike to protest the regime, they really do starve themselves, and attempts are made to force them out of it. Different methods are used.
In my case, they tried to touch me as little as possible, to stand as far away from me as possible, and keep an eye out to make sure, indeed, that nothing happened to me. This is why… Let’s say, they understood very well that they wouldn’t be able to force-feed me. It would look very bad, and it would actually be deadly. So they tried to negotiate with me. So I did feel that yes, they probably do need me alive more than dead.
But… You know, the situation was unpredictable. Today I’m alive, tomorrow they could waste me. I’m ready for everything. Have been, and still am.
Petro Maga, co-host: Nadiya, I’m up here, in the dispatcher’s seat. It feels like Ukraine is not yet done talking with you. While we were backstage, arrangements were being made with you for two more interviews, and you said that you get bombarded. On one hand, they say – Nadiya, you’re a hero; on the other hand – Nadiya, you’re such a catch. You said you were sick of hearing that.
Maga: Tell me this. Your first words, when you landed at the airport… You said you might not remember everything you said. You used a very good Ukrainian word. You said, “Don’t let me whore myself out [Ukr. скурвитися, lit. become a whore].”
Nadiya: (chuckles) Yes.
Maga: Tell me, please, what is your idea… What is Nadiya Savchenko’s idea of not whoring out? And if anyone is trying to lure you towards that path?
Nadiya: Well, I’ll tell you that even YOU’re trying! Let’s see.
What does it mean not to whore out, in my understanding? The only thing left from the old me is my cigarettes. People are trying to clean me up, smooth me down – from every side. Dress me up, advise me on what kind of politician I must be, teach me how to talk…
I can and know how to be a relatively well-mannered and polite person. I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. I can say intelligent, moderate, thoughtful things. But everything depends on the situation. I react to my surroundings. If I stepped off the plane in the airport, and my surroundings were, pardon me, attacking me like a pack of jackals – I had to snarl at everyone to get them to back away.
Why did I do this? I had to win my personal space. If I hadn’t stepped up to the people, and hadn’t immediately put everyone in their place, hadn’t freed up my personal space – then I would have to spend the rest of my life hiding under wigs, behind sunglasses, in cars with tinted windows, and behind security.
What kind of life is that? I want to live among you. I traveled by public transport. People recognize me, and they just greet me politely, because everyone understands that I’m just another living person, a regular human being. I don’t need to immediately get manicures, or… Even when I come to the studio, there’s makeup. I don’t see a reason to waste time on that. A person is exactly who they are.
Maybe I don’t look too well because I get shiny on camera – but the important thing is what I say. Even better, what I do. Listen, yes, but only judge a person by their actions. But if you want to cover me in powder, I’ll turn into a glamorous bride, a princess that needs to be married off. To be sold to the highest bidder – politically speaking.
I don’t want this. I want to remain myself. So don’t let me whore myself out. Today, I’ll get a manicures, tomorrow I’ll ride a Lexus, and the day after tomorrow – I’ll sell out Ukraine.
Let me rather walk on foot, be barefoot, stay dirty, and speak the way I do – but do what must be done. I don’t know how I’m going to act yet, so we can judge later. I’m always open to criticism. If today people are throwing flowers at me, and tomorrow, they throw stones, I’ll know I’m doing something wrong. And I will thank you for it!
Shuster: Nadiya, going back to the vote on the amendments to the Constitution. 13 out of 19 deputies from the Batkivshchyna faction voted in their favor. You voted against, and Yuliya Tymoshenko abstained from the vote. How are you and your colleagues getting along now?
Nadiya: Getting along fine. If you’re curious about the work of the Batkivshchyna party, I can give you my opinion. It’s a party. Meaning- Earlier, my only understanding of a party was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Now I’m learning what a party really is, because I didn’t know it before.
It is really a team, where there is room for discussion, but also for teamwork. One person cannot grasp everything, which is why all deputies mainly work in parties – because some people specialize in one thing, some in another, and one needs to learn to trust the opinion of others. However, as I said before, after seeing the vote on the amendment [to the pension law], I’m wary of trusting others’ opinion. But they teach me things, they explain things, they share their knowledge generously. I don’t know if they’re sharing all the knowledge; perhaps I wouldn’t be able to learn it all at once anyway.
The dynamic in the team is perfectly normal, and no one is putting pressure on anybody. If you mean [how voting is done], there are times when a party member would say: “I have studied this issue, it is as follows, and the right way to vote would be this way or that” – and the party would trust that. Actually, not the party, in this case, but the parliamentary faction. In cases when opinions differ, there is no pressure. Everyone votes the way they want.
I was not prepared to cast a vote for [the amendment], I felt, intuitively, what was wrong about it, and I defended my opinion. Yulia Volodymyrivna [Tymoshenko] had her own opinion. The rest had theirs. Their main incentive [to vote for] was that law being a step towards Europe. We all strive in that direction. So perhaps they voted that way because of that.
How did that affect the relations [inside the party]? I didn’t ask them why they voted the way they did. I have a gut feeling about why it was done that way. I saw what was going on in the Verkhovna Rada. I see how it’s important to get the votes for a constitutional majority. I understand now how it’s done.
You all know the real words to call this process. I don’t know whether to say them out loud here.
Shuster: You probably should.
Nadiya: Should I?
Nadiya: They’re tanking it, tanking the whole thing [lit. flushing down the drain]. This is why I can’t tell you anything yet. That’s the way it’s being done. That’s the politics. That’s what politics ARE.
Shuster: Consider this. On one hand, the Minsk [negotiation] process is ongoing. On the other, we, the public eye, the society, receive reports of killed and wounded Ukrainian soldiers, every day. The news show that Russian troops are accumulating in this place, and that place… We’re in this… The whole country is still in a situation of, well, war. Whatever else we say. What do you think is the way out of it? Exclusively with diplomacy, or are there other ways?
Nadiya: Let’s… Like I said, the most important thing right now is not to crash. I don’t want to blow up Ukraine. Let me rather be Ukraine’s worst weapon, or the best weapon for Ukraine and the worst weapon for the enemy, interpret this any way you want.
I can start criticising. I can start shouting- They’re all doing a good job shouting from the tribune, you know? They do anything and everything, bring a pitchfork [referencing MP Oleh Lyashko] or whatever else – like I had that grenade.
You listen to them, and you want to believe everyone. But then you see they act differently. Let me speak less, but do the right thing. I don’t want to criticise, I don’t want to raise a Maidan, as many fear I might. I understand that this scenario might be unavoidable. But it-
Everyone who wrote letters to me in prison, included the word “peace” in every letter. Many letters spoke about not giving up, not breaking, going to the end – but everyone wanted peace.
Let me try to bring about peace. I don’t know yet how I’m going to do it. But I am not going to try and blow up Ukraine now. I don’t want to do that. I understand that the time may come for that. I can’t see the future. But for now, this is it.
Shuster: So if we’re talking about action… What can you do, or what are you suggesting, to free the people currently held captive?
Nadiya: We have a three-tiered situation here.
First of all, this is at the level of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. In this case, dialogue must happen between the presidents. Between the presidents and those they entrust to do it.
The second tier is: prisoners in judicial systems. Some are currently held by Ukraine’s judicial systems, others, in the newly-created, self-proclaimed LNR-DNR. They [LNR and DNR] are taking it to a legal level, making it more difficult.
Political prisoners can be freed through negotiations between heads of state, maybe I can help this somehow- In fact, everyone can help this. If we don’t let them be forgotten – that will definitely help them! You didn’t let me be forgotten, and only because of that am I free now. So we will not let the rest be forgotten. On my part, I will not allow this.
The second stage is on the level of judicial systems. It is also rather difficult.
And there’s a level which, I think, is the easiest for negotiations – on the level of battalions, battalion commanders. The “hot prisoners” that are still kept in basements, grabbed in areas where fighting still goes on. Somehow, I think it has always been easier to negotiate before prisoners are moved, kidnapped to Russia like I was. It’s easier to negotiate and look [for prisoners] right away.
Those who go to battle will understand each other faster. They don’t care so much about politics, they understand that each side has their own people. So they can come to an agreement. But when it moves to the political level, the price of human life plays a smaller role. More importance is placed on what one can get in exchange for that person [prisoner]. What kind of bargain can they drive? That’s where it becomes difficult.
These three levels, these three platforms I identified – we need to work on all these platforms. My sister will be working on this. Because she freed me, somehow, she started this, everyone helped her, and it worked. This means she can already do it, and she can keep doing this. I will support her in every way.
I will try to act, and talk less about it, because, truly, you know… A lot of things fall through because of the media and the internet’s favorite tricks: to show the battle too early, show something else, show our hand.
If we’re doing this, we should be doing, not blabbing. I’ll try to act, not blab. Let’s see how it goes.
But all our guys will be free. If necessary, I will go back, in exchange for them. I think that now I will be a sufficient coin to buy them back.
Shuster: You said, “I will shake everyone’s hand [at first], and then size everyone up.” But what if you had to hold negotiations, difficult negotiations, with the Russian President Vladimir Putin… Would you shake his hand?
Nadiya: Good question. You know, I shake a person’s hand in different situations.
In the Verkhovna Rada, mainly, when dealing with people I don’t know personally, I shake their hand when they offer me their hand. To people I know, I offer my hand first.
I do not know Vladimir Putin personally.
Shuster: Petro, what are you getting from our viewers?
Maga: You know, it may be surprising, but there’s one absurd question: Where was your first day easier: in the Russian prison or in the Verkhovna Rada? That’s an unexpected question.
Second question: have you been told that many of your current statements – hard, harsh statements – are being used by Russian propaganda, taken out of context and spun to their benefit?
And one more question: are you planning to travel around Ukraine? People in a lot of places are looking forward to seeing you.
Nadiya: To the first question: It was easier in the Verkhovna Rada, because at least that’s Ukraine. In Russian prison-
Even outside of prison, when they first took the bag off my head, and I saw Russian license plates and birch trees… I was simply repulsed. From there on, it was never easy for me to be there. Not because I don’t like Russia – I’ve never seen it, I haven’t gone there as a tourist. But simply because of the way I was taken there.
And the Verkhovna Rada, whatever it’s like, it’s still mine. My own, Ukrainian.
Please remind me what the second question was?
Maga: I remember that the third one was whether you’re going to go around Ukraine…
Nadiya: Ah, I remember. The Russian media and what they do. Let me put it this way.
The Russian media can take every letter I say out of context, and make up new words. Does this mean I should stay silent? Those who want to hear, will hear me. Those who want to figure out the truth, will either believe me, or not. And those who want to be fooled and led, let them be led. Sheep were made to be led around and taken to pastures. I don’t care. I speak for Ukrainians.
And the last question, whether I’m going to travel around Ukraine. Yes, I am. But [telling more about it] would be the same as revealing a battle strategy. I want to go everywhere sincerely. I don’t want to be met with plackards and flowers, or have rallies organized for me. I want to just come to places and… Of course, I can’t visit all of Ukraine. Even though, back in the day, during my ten years in the army, I hitchhiked everywhere while on leave. But that took ten years. I have less time now.
So I will be traveling and stopping randomly. I just want these to be sincere meetings. But I will travel around Ukraine before anything else. I can’t go to Europe before I get a feel for my own country.
Shuster: Going back to the subject of the Parliament. You spoke in favor of creating the temporary investigation committee in the issue of offshore dealings. I don’t know if we have [a video of] Nadiya’s speech…
Nadiya: About the Titanic?
Shuster: [chuckles] Yes, about the Titanic again.
Nadiya (on video, in the Parliament): I’ve heard a lot of very right words being said from this tribune. Which are then followed by very wrong actions.
Each government that comes to power starts shouting about the previous administration’s corruption. Not a single [Ukrainian] government in my memory has ever spoken about its own corruption.
You’re all on the Titanic.
Just so you’d understand: this parliament, of the current convocation, we’re all on the Titanic. And you must understand that none of you will make it to the shore.
If you vote against this law, against this commission, you can already be sure you won’t make it. The people are watching you right now. If you don’t create this commission, the people will immediately understand what you’re worth. If you do create the commission, but it achieves nothing, the people will also understand what you’re worth.
Either way, not a single rat is getting off this ship. So I advise that you start by passing this [law], and creating this commission with honesty. This may be the first thing that the current government will have done for the people.
Shuster: But the temporary commission was not created.
Nadiya: It would not have been honest anyway – that’s what I can tell you. I understood that already.
Shuster: It wouldn’t have been?
Nadiya: First of all, the law on these commissions isn’t drafted properly. This is something I’m just starting to learn about. Secondly… I think these commissions are being created more for the purposes of PR and to keep up appearances. There needs to be a different way, or to really do it honestly. To draft the law so as to make the commission actually work.
Concerning what I said, I stand by my words now. That’s the real situation. And I want to tell you one more thing. I now understand what this spinning circle is: it’s approval. I can sense that you can sense me. You can see when I’m being insincere.
When I answer questions about politics, I am obviously being rather insincere, because I don’t want to lie to you, but I can’t tell the whole truth. And you can sense that very strongly, and your approval dips by a whole ten percent. Why did you switch it off? (smiles) So I wouldn’t be looking at it?
Shuster: (chuckles) No, I didn’t switch it off.
Nadiya: Ah, there it is.
Nadiya: So… yes. You sense everything correctly, you understand everything correctly. That’s good. Because when I lie to you about anything…
I’m just saying, if the people trusted the government, they’d say, “Alright, lead us somewhere, we’re giving you a credit of trust. If we can see you’re being insincere, that means you simply can’t tell the whole truth, but we still trust you to follow the right path. That’s simply your situation at the moment – but you’ll still lead us well.”
If I keep doing [politics], you will be able to see when I’m being insincere. And you will either still trust me and allow me to keep some things from you – or you won’t allow it, and when you pellet me with stones, I’ll understand I’m going the wrong way. Or that you don’t understand me.
So it really is good that this square- I mean, that this circle exists. I confess: I’m being withholding. Unfortunately, that’s already the case.
Shuster: Well, this-
Nadiya: In some issues, anyway.
Shuster: This is a very difficult studio, because those who come here, politicians or not, they can see what people think of them: live, in real-time, the way it is. It’s a secret vote, we don’t know who is voting their approval or disapproval.
Nadiya: I don’t know individual votes either, but I can see the number.
Shuster: Yes. Nadiya, many, many people asked this question after you had been freed: why did Russia and its president do it? Did you ask yourself this question?
Nadiya: Like I had nothing better to do than sit and wonder why they did it!
You know, I couldn’t stand the TV. The first few days of my being there [in prison], those were the times of Ilovaisk, Savur-Mohyla, Debaltseve. When the Russian media was showing Russian GRAD missiles raining down on our guys – while I sit there, my fingernails nearly drawing blood from my own hands, from the sheer helplessness! Because I’m here, and they’re there, and I can’t do anything!
It was an enormous stress and… So I didn’t care to sit and wonder what they were saying about me! Honestly, I didn’t even care what they were saying about me.
Why did Russia do this? It did it because-
I once heard a speech by some political analyst. He said that I became very inconvenient. Like a suitcase without a handle: too heavy to carry, but a shame to throw away. And that for Russia, it’s easier to make a show of not abandoning their own, to take their guys back, and to hand me over so I’d become Ukraine’s problem. That was their thought, one politician’s comment that I heard once.
Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t think too much about why Russia let me go. I had other things to think about.
Shuster: When you returned to Ukraine, you said that you’d like to… I can’t give an exact quote right now, but you said you’d like to know the truth about Crimea. Why things happened there the way they did.
Nadiya: About Crimea?
Nadiya: Did I say that?
Nadiya: Okay, let’s see what context you could’ve taken that out of…
Shuster: No, the context was: you were asked a question, it was a ‘war and peace’ type of question, and you started talking-
Nadiya: Was it Russian TV?
Shuster: No-no, Ukrainian.
Nadiya: Okay, the truth about Crimea… Yes.
I can say that even when you’re in battle, you don’t see past 100 meters around yourself. You can’t know the truth of the entire war. You only see the truth of the battle you’re in.
None of us know the whole truth about Crimea. But many of my friends served there, and guys I’ve served with before. During the entire time while Crimea was being invaded, they kept phoning me.
The court later asked me: why did they call YOU? The prosecutor asked. I told them: who were they supposed to call, the Minister of Defense? Do you think everyone has a direct line to the top?
We, lieutenants, sergeants, we’re on the same level, and we call each other, to understand the situation. I knew what was going on there. They told me everything, almost 24/7, blow-by-blow, how everything was happening.
So I know the truth about Crimea. As far as it’s possible to know.
Shuster: Nadiya, during your press-conference you also said that there can be no election in territories outside of Ukraine’s control, until the border is controlled.
Nadiya: First of all, yes, this is mandatory. Closing the border and holding the border is the top priority.
Those currently in Donbas are Ukrainians. Well, if the Russians go home, the people left there will be Ukrainians. They are not our enemy. They’re our opponent.
We misunderstand each other. We have to find common ground between ourselves. This is very difficult right now. Because forgiving… First of all, we need to forgive.
Some people need to forgive themselves, some need to forgive their enemy, their opponent. Either way, we need to look for reconciliation. I’m ready to forgive my own people. As for the enemy, I can’t understand why they came to my land. But to my own people, I’m ready to forgive, I’m ready to make peace.
So we have to close the border, and sort things out between ourselves. For as long as our neighbors are giving their own input, we won’t be able to do it.
Shuster: So, you’re ready to forgive even those people who shot…
Nadiya: Let me explain this to you again. I know you’ve seen a lot of things. I understand that when they chop off a person’s arm because of a trident tattoo, that’s beyond human understanding.
It’s just that war is what it is. It is never just one color. There always are- Those who’ve been there, will understand, by looking into a person’s eyes, what kind of person they are and what methods they use in the war. Whether they fight dirty, whether they’re a scumbag or not.
Not everyone over there [in Donbas] is bad. Not everyone of our own is good. Let us acknowledge the truth.
War is such that it makes everyone show their true colors. It’s not just true for our war: it was true in WW2. A Soviet soldier who rapes a German woman, or a German soldier who rapes a Ukrainian, a Russian, or a Belarusian one.
War is a thing that’s best not remembered. I mean, remember that it mustn’t happen, but not remember every horror.
If you didn’t see it, don’t think about it. Otherwise we’re going to lose our minds, people. If we remember all this blood, we will simply lose our minds.
There are mothers left [without sons] on that side, the same as there are mothers on ours. Let’s imagine: a good mother raises her son, who then ships her off to the old folk’s home. Is that a normal child’s behavior? And if this child goes to war, how do you think he will act there?
These are all human intricacies. But I think that the human soul will also find the strength to forgive.
Shuster: Thank you, Nadiya.
Nadiya: Thank you.
Shuster: Thank you for being on this show.
Shuster: I offer my hand first, right?
Nadiya: Yes. Thank you. All the best.
Nadiya: Glory to Ukraine!
Audience: Glory to the Heroes!
Source: Shuster Live YouTube
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