Nadiya Savchenko on Shuster Live: I will become an independent candidate and lead the People’s Movement of Ukraine (English transcript)

Nadiya Savchenko, Hero of Ukraine, People’s deputy of the “Batkivshchyna/Fatherland” party, videotaped on Shuster Live by journalist and TV host Savik Shuster on independent
Transcript and translation by Voices of Ukraine

On November 25, 2016, Nadiya Savchenko appeared on Shuster Live, to talk about her first 6 months in the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament of Ukraine] and make an announcement that she will become an independent politician and lead a movement.

Watch the video (in Ukrainian), or read the transcript below.


Nadiya Savchenko: “Can I speak? When I first came to this studio, I was fresh out of prison. I wasn’t afraid. Parachuting the first time isn’t scary, since you don’t know what it’s like. Half a year has gone since then.

“The first thing I was frightened of, in this my political journey, was the people’s great hope for me. It was too great for any living person to live up to. People were looking at me as if tomorrow I would make the lame walk and the blind see. Only Jesus Christ can do that, I couldn’t. I had to walk my path alone. I had to make my own mistakes. I had to learn through my own bumps and falls. I did do this. Very quickly, stones started flying at me, just as I had anticipated. I wasn’t afraid of this. It was maybe two months, and rocks flew at me, followed by, um, how to say it… [“shit” – a male voice from the audience]… Yes, ok, let’s call it that – from the government. And I began to understand what this system is like. Everything that I said – I would be told that I was making mistakes, that it was politically wrong, that I would lose my electorate. They tried to fill my head with some politico-technological ideas – what I should do, what I shouldn’t do, how I should conduct myself to come to power. 

The first two months, everyone wanted to buy me, every party. They were ready to take me because they wanted me to never think, to open my mouth for the sake of speaking the slogans they wrote, and thought that I would bring them to power. You know, I saw the system from the inside, and for half a year I still don’t understand. For half a year now, I’ve been speaking all my words, carrying out all my actions while taking all these punches [against me]. I am certain of my every word and action, certain that they are right. I will never denounce them. And I will continue to speak that which is just, fair and true. And I will defend my position to the end. [Clapping from studio audience].

When I started working with people more, I understood that it’s impossible to do anything within this system. Each time some new reform [is proposed], I wonder whether to press the green or the red voting button, because even if the reform is right, I can already see how these authorities will be able to corrupt it and benefit from it, and how it will become a new crisis for Ukraine again. When I speak with people, I tell them, “Give me two people from your community whom you trust.” And in the end, the people are not ready to do this. They can fight each other endlessly, but they have not learned to trust each other. Ukrainians cannot trust each other. Because we got used to not trusting the government, we got used to not trusting anyone.

What are the political technologists doing, and what did I see on the inside? I have observed many of the parties, not only the one I found myself in [the ‘Fatherland’ party]. I could not understand why being in the government tears people so far away from [normal] life. Maybe because of the [tax] declarations, maybe because they can make it through each month without borrowing money towards the end of it, maybe that separates them from life. But they look at people differently. When it comes to voting, or discussing any law, these lawmakers should be thinking about the state, how the state as a whole should be developing. Instead, it goes something like this: [in a theatrical, declarative voice] “…And from this law, we will yield political bonuses, therefore we are voting for it!” Furthermore, why couldn’t they kill the Savchenko Law? [A law that counts pretrial detention as a part of the detention sentence.] It’s not because I wasn’t in the Rada [parliament] but because they don’t have any trust or agreement amongst themselves. They essentially brought out two laws, and one group didn’t vote for one law because it wasn’t ‘theirs,’ while the others didn’t vote for the other one because it was the ‘others.” Everyone wanted to earn PR points. Even there they couldn’t find agreement.

Video screenshot, Shuster Live

Video screenshot, Shuster Live

If you watch and listen to [Mikheil] Saakashvili, to Gregory Tupa – every time, they say that we need to change the political elite. You know, I am seeing the same thing. I came [to politics] two years later, I hadn’t managed to whore myself out yet. I am very much afraid of whoring myself out or becoming bitter. I have observed many different syndromes in people who came to politics young. Someone came and sold out right away. Someone came and said, ‘I’ll do at least a little bit, I can see that everything is bad, but I want to change something, I can change something, even a tiny bit.’ Someone came and could not stand it: couldn’t lose their conscience yet, but didn’t have the strength to continue, so they lay down their mandate and left politics. Lots of different things were expected from me. Everyone was expecting something, and everyone tried to use it in their own way.

But I understood that it’s not the political elites that need to change. Because as Maria said quite correctly, in a recent political talk show, she said, “All you new people, myself included, turned out to be only a screen, behind which the old powers came back to the government. It’s not the faces of the people in power that need to change, it’s the system itself. People came out on Maidan with the express understanding that they didn’t need a different government, they needed a different system. We deeply and subconsciously knew this and felt this.

The system was created in a way that everyone who falls into it cannot act any different. Right now, they are telling people to take positions of power. But not everyone needs to get into politics; really, it’s not for everyone. Our politics need thinkers who can think twenty steps ahead – like chess players, who can create models, write proper laws, who will sit in place and not run about the parliament chamber shouting, fighting, and trying to score PR points. But, even people who take up local positions of power will quickly see how it goes. Let’s say you became an honest prosecutor on an oblast level. You will very quickly see that you can’t get anywhere with the court judge because he is not honest, can’t get anywhere with the cop because he is not honest. It is not possible to work within this system. Not on any level of it.

I became convinced of this again and again, as I drove across Ukraine, listened to what people were talking about, saw what was happening in the courtrooms, [what was going on] with workers in factories. It’s not just our politicians who are whores; we have a whored-out system. It has rotted and outlived itself. We need to come to [the place of] truly changing the system. Once at a press conference I said something that at the time was neither properly heard nor understood, but some people did hear me and started to think like me. They began to understand that before we destroy one thing, before we decapitate our current system, we need to have the next thing prepared. When we decapitate our system, the same people will take advantage of it as they have from the last four Maidans, and the same people will come again. Until we have an alternative model of Ukraine ready, in detail, with all risk calculations, prepared to withstand any stress, a model that we could establish and defend after taking down the old system – until then we will not be able to have change in Ukraine – a change that won’t result in us being tricked. Right now, Maidans are taking place. We all understand that they don’t lead in the right direction. Even something worse might happen now. In the past, Maidans would boil over into bloodshed; right now, people have already been flooded by blood. They won’t explode now, not even if this government starts firing at the people. They won’t explode, but they also won’t stop now. People know now where the politicians live and whose blood they will drink, and this will end badly for all of these politicians. Very badly. [Clapping from the audience].

The model that I’m proposing and want to bring to all Ukrainian people – to build it, like I had said, you need to drive the rams into the pen. They are rams, cowardly rams. They may not be stupid, they are sly and crooked, but they are cowardly rams. How can you drive them into the pen? You can compress like a spring, not aggravating the situation until [the model] is written out and until you all hear each other. Those who want to carry this message across will be dropped from the air and kicked off of all [tv and radio] channels, to make sure that you can’t hear each other. But you’ll all be able to hear each other – through a friend, a friend of a friend, even I can drive around to you all. We will be able to hear and to understand whether we are we ready for such a changeover.

Next, you should choose people whom you trust, from each community, and tell me: “Nadia, here, we trust these people, work with them.” These people should be in power for a certain period of time. They have to lay down the law with which you will all be familiar. When these people come to power, you ought to stand on Maidan for the first 2-3 months of their rule, not at the end. You must make them pass all the laws of this program, which would be well thought-out and would develop Ukraine. After this, this interim-fitted governing body that will accept these laws, should understand that the laws they pass will be the laws they will live by. The would say that no one person who has been once in the government within the past 25 years, including myself, has the right to stay in it longer. And people in this interim government also have no right to govern again.

Video screen shot, Shuster Live

Video screen shot, Shuster Live

The Constitution should be written in a way to enable it to defend itself, without a way for the President to break it using his Presidential majority. Like when it was being broken with judicial reforms, when Shukhevych and I were against it and couldn’t stop it. In addition to the Constitution, there should be core laws written out, blocks of laws that cannot be destroyed. Because what I saw in the Verkhovna Rada post-Maidan, was 700 laws in six months, stuffed into this legislative body, already formed and bursting at the seams. The laws were being shoved in haphazardly: put one in, it doesn’t work, yank it out, put it another, still doesn’t work. Many laws have not been thoroughly read and run contrary to each other. All these laws are what Ukraine lives by.

You come and say, ‘Why all this bureaucracy? Why do I have to pay a bribe?’ Because let’s say you come to power, you sit there, and you have two laws, and you can ignore one of them or the other, whichever is best for you. The system lets us prostitute ourselves so, and we start closing our eyes whenever it is easier for us. This ruin is on such a scale that achieving stability after the chaos is very difficult.

So if people don’t want to think for themselves, if they haven’t learned already, if they want things to be good but don’t want to do anything toward that end – unfortunately, most people in Ukraine are like this – then admit this is the case, and say, “Give us a dictator who will make everything good, we’re ready to live like that.” Unfortunately, most of the pensioner population is ready to say this. Most of the younger generation will say – no, we are ready to change something ourselves. But we have to lead and to unite Ukraine.

Look at what is happening right now: 360 parties are being formed. Soon, you’ll be able to take one deputy from every party and fill the Verkhovna Rada. All these parties are being formed to divide people who have the same ideas, so that they don’t hear one another. And if we want to finally do everything right, we have to pause once in a while. Much has been said about the fact that we should have political and judicial literacy. Perhaps the older generation will not learn this, because they were taught by the old system. Ideally, the younger generation will come to it and know it. But right now, you should learn from your own experience, and realize when you are being tricked. And you ought to understand how a law should come to be and how it should work for the good of the people. You have to take that for which Maidan stood, and understand it, point by point.

A lot of things were predicted for me, right? That I will stay in the Fatherland [party], even lead the Fatherland party. That I’ll leave politics because I won’t be able to stand it. That I’ll form my own political project. You know, I’m tired of all of this. I’m left with what I’ve always had. I remain myself – uncontrollable, unpredictable, and a third word that doesn’t translate. After sitting and thinking in the Verkhovna Rada for half a year, I found one way forward. We don’t need to create something new. We should remember something old that has been forgotten.

Not long ago, I listened to Chornovil’s speech in Crimea, where he was saying that Crimea should have been given national autonomy, not just territorial autonomy. I listened to a lot of his speeches, and I thought to myself, wondering what would have happened to today’s Ukraine if Chornovil had become the president, in his time, instead of Kravchuk. We would have a very different Ukraine. In his time, he often said things that people didn’t understand, things that were ahead of his time. Similarly, I am saying things that are ahead of this time. They may fail to find understanding right now. But Chornovil became the fire that gave Ukraine independence. May I also become a fire that will burn itself out, but give Ukraine a future. I am ready for this. [Clapping in the studio audience].

As soon as I came out of prison, my sister showed me a video where there were guys who were saying, “Nadiya, you just whistle and we’ll come.” For half a year, I did not whistle, because, being an officer and a commander, I know what it is like to lead people or send them into battle to their death. It is a tremendous responsibility. So as not to screw things up, or to only screw things up by myself, I will only lead when I’m ready to lead. But once again, I propose to do this by a different method than you might imagine.

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

I choose to carry on the movement together with you – not Saakashvili’s movement of new ideas, and not the one which Krivenko represents with Kyshkar in the [Verkhovna] Rada. It is this movement that I became familiar with, one which holds the source of the values that have remained. They haven’t been achieved, but those are values for which Maidan stood, and they are inside every Ukrainian. A Ukrainian is an individualist. Give a person the opportunity to live well, and they will ensure that the state does well.

I will lead the movement like a party. A party that was forgotten, that was misunderstood, and perhaps people have various opinions on it, but people change. One party is not better than another, I agree with you there. Therefore, I propose a different mechanism. I will not enter a party, I am becoming an independent politician. I am becoming an independent politician and opening my own fund. Your trust can be expressed through this fund. I am not going to lie and say that I am creating a party that will be honest and will receive money from the budget for some kind of political actions. No. The way I will do it is, among others, found in the American system. If I’m going into politics, if I’m to go for the Presidency, then, as they say, chip in to support me. Why the fund? So that people understand that the input side will be closed [private], because those who start putting money toward the ideas that I and they believe in, they will start taking heat. The output side of the fund will always be public, so that people can see all receipts, see where the money goes, and see that they can have trust in it. That way, they have direct control over the politician.

Here is what I want to propose for the movement. There is a People’s Movement of Ukraine. It is something that was born even before a free and independent Ukraine was born in 1991. It was a public platform, and it needs to remain a public platform. Not everyone needs to enter the party, and may the party exist and take on a life of its own. One can just come under the banner of this movement, watch and listen. If one believes in it, one can join the party or not. But the party needs to be directed and monitored. Every politician, who sooner or later will enter the government, should be put forth by the movement. Not when the leader brings someone and says: here is your leader, he’s your head, believe him. On the contrary: one must come to the movement and say… because I saw that all existing parties have their local own appointees, whom people don’t trust. Because of that, people also lose trust in the leaders in Kyiv, and they say: your people have sold out, they’re voting for all the wrong laws. That’s the truth.

There is a different mechanism, which would prevent this from happening. Put forward your people. Say: this is someone we trust, this is someone we want appointed. In the end, this entire party will consist of people you trust, people you delegate. And that’s the party I will bring to the Rada. This will be the government that will consciously understand that it was created in order to change the system, and it will live by the system it changes. And none of them will go back to politics afterwards. But you will then be able to fill the ruling posts with good and honest people of conscience, if you understand what I’m talking about right now.

I am leading a movement. The movement returns with hope, the movement returns with faith, the movement returns with strength, the movement returns with action.

Video screen shot, Shuster Live

Video screen shot, Shuster Live

Source: Shuster Live YouTube

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This translation work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 


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