The former prime minister underscored that Kiev's strategy of regularly firing artillery rounds at industrial centers demonstrates their absolute lack of responsibility with regard to the potential consequences. "I cannot understand the decisions taken by Kiev on the basis of elementary common sense," he noted.
Azarov pointed to the near miss "catastrophe which could have occurred in Donetsk, when the Ukrainian military fired Tochka U [OTR-21] ballistic missiles, which leave a crater between 15-30 meters deep, at a strategic weapons factory which had radioactive materials for producing weapons components." The former prime minister noted that "if this rocket had [struck something] and resulted in the release of these radioactive materials, Ukraine as a whole wouldn't know what hit it," prefacing his comments by noting that his "voice shakes just speaking about it."
Foolishness and Irresponsibility to Blame
Worst of all, in Azarov's view, is the knowledge that "this was done deliberately. The Tochka U is not launched by the Right Sector, or some volunteer battalion. It is launched by a special military detachment, which receives the relevant commands, up to at least the level of the minister of defense. Think to yourself how foolish and irresponsible one must be to give such commands. And such people, to my deep regret, are in charge of the country."
Asked why the conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues to smolder despite the signing of the Minsk agreements aimed at stopping the fighting, Azarov noted that he considers the present authorities to constitute "a puppet regime, acting to fulfill some foreign powers' goals." In this light, the politician stated that while "it's one thing to listen to the declarations by the US to abide by the points of the Minsk agreements, I cannot rule out that they say something completely different when they meet one-on-one [with Ukrainian authorities]."
Throwing Scarce Resources Into a Bottomless Pit
"Thirdly, can it be considered normal to allocate 5 billion hryvnia into this bottomless pit known as the 'Anti-Terrorist Operation' in the east in a situation where our pensioners cannot afford to buy medicine and a basic basket of food? The country is bankrupt. It does not have money to buy fuel oil for the winter, no money to purchase gas. Our leaders are traveling to countries around the world looking for handouts. Just the other day the European Union transferred another tranche of $600 million. And where will this money go? For returning the debt that we already owe; they allocate exactly what the country needs at the moment to pay its foreign creditors. Is this a normal situation?"
Dependence on Humanitarian Aid and IMF Handouts a Disgrace
Azarov told LifeNews that he considers it "a disgrace" that Eastern Ukraine has now been forced to seek humanitarian assistance from Russia, while the rest of the country looks for handouts abroad. "It's a disgrace, for Ukraine first and foremost, that a significant part of its territory is now being assisted by humanitarian convoys from Russia, because such problems have never occurred before. Donbass is a self-sufficient region, and the economic blockade created by the Kiev regime has resulted in incredibly difficult humanitarian conditions for millions of its residents."
Recalling that a significant portion of Ukraine's economic potential is located in Donbass, Azarov stated that "by destroying Donbass, Kiev is cutting the leg from under the chair they're sitting in. And it's worth noting that the creditors, who understand this, are not in a hurry to provide Ukraine with new loans, to restructure or to prolong the old debt. They understand that the country is bankrupt, and understand the [erroneous] economic policy being undertaken."
Noting that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has not met with any successes in his recent fundraising trips to the US and Britain, Azarov argued that this has happened because "any normal investor looks at prevailing economic policy, at the financial-economic situation, and at the kinds of policy decisions being made. They took a look at Ukraine and became silent." Azarov noted that the average US investor's logic went along the lines of "'Well the State Department asked, and I will come out to the conference, and could even say a kind word applauding Ukraine, but not in my life will I risk my own money.'"
Solution to the Crisis Exists, But Not Under the Present Authorities
Azarov told his interviewer that the present authorities bear responsibility for the "miscalculations, mistakes and crimes" leading to Ukraine's economic paralysis, emphasizing that if authorities are "truly looking for an exit from this situation, the first thing they would have to do would be to restore peace, to remove troops and artillery from the front line, and to sit down at the table and to reach a compromise," which could finally result in them getting down to "the task of rebuilding the economy."
Azarov noted that the economy could only be restored "together with Russia. [The current authorities] have unleashed such an anti-Russian hysteria that even children in kindergartens are shouting anti-Russian phrases, but we must understand that the fundamental interests of our economy are based on the preservation of our markets in the east –and in Russia first and foremost. Without this market we will not be able to lift ourselves back up. Just think –in one year we have lost $25 billion in exports."
Emphasizing that Ukraine has not been able to make up for losses in these markets through trade with the West, which has also faced a decline in the past year, Azarov noted that instead Kiev has been busy "running around the world with its hands outstretched," only managing to bring in $10-12 billion, mostly in the form of loans.
Azarov stated that neither Saakashvili, who was forced to flee his home country, nor Ms. Gaidar, who was recently appointed as his deputy, know anything about the Odessa Region or its problems. "Odessa is a large region, a difficult region, with its own specificities. What can Gaidar possibly know about the Odessa region?…The same is true of Saakashvili. What does he know about the Odessa region? It's obvious that the answer is 'nothing'."
The former prime minister recalled that even during his own time in office, he "faced situations where my hands were tied, and had to work with people who were forced upon me, but even then it was possible to do something positive." He emphasized that if a situation can finally be created "where decent, honest, competent people can come to power, there will be no need for any Georgians. It's funny to even think about it!"
"This is the situation, and it demands first and foremost the change of the political regime," Azarov noted. "This regime came to power illegally, as a result of a coup d'état." The politician noted that Ukrainians "are waking up to the fact that it's time to for the authorities to resign, and to [the need to] conduct snap elections at all levels of government." As to who might be included in the new government, Azarov emphasized that government must "be comprised of those who have proven via their practical experience that they are capable of doing something positive" for the country.