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Viktor Yanukovych: "I am leading those people who want to go this way"

Olga Marchuk
economic observer


The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych reported about three years of activity in office to journalists at a press conference held on March 1, 2013. The President have not met with press for 15 months, that is why there were many willing to listen to the constitution guarantor - 259 accredited journalists from central and foreign media representatives and 137 regional media representatives

A few hours before press conference, Ukrainian House on European Square in Kiev was surrounded by police. Before getting into the hall where meeting was held, journalists had to pass through four border guards. Protesters used event for their purposes: on the street on one side were supporters of the Party of Regions with flags of political power and a banner "We support the European course of President Viktor Yanukovych," on the other side - fans of "Batkivschina" with party symbols.

President entered the room smiling, confidently went to his place. He began communicating with 30-minute speech about improvement. Viktor Yanukovych stressed that the years were "very difficult, since 2010, we balanced over precipice and slowly came out of a very difficult situation into positive, stable development of our country". However, the most important achievement, he believes to be a finally managed start for modernization of country, which we waited for almost 20 years, and the state policy of reform finds support within the state, and understanding of international partners.

The President then announced that in 2012 a package of measures to increase incomes was implemented. All three years, state increased its social investments. There were initiated profound changes in the health system, including building eight modern perinatal centers where already have been born more than 20 thousand babies, creating a record number of primary health care facilities - 271 center. In those regions we have achieved a significant increase in salary of primary care physicians. Last year, it was more than doubled - up to 4165 UAH. Preschools network is rebounding. In 2012, they purchased more school buses for students than in previous three years all together - more than 900 vehicles. According to Viktor Yanukovych, conclusion is that policy reforms brought positive social impact.

They managed to ensure systemic changes in area of ​​business development. Simplified licensing and registration procedures established transparent mechanisms for launching business, narrowed direct administrative control of the state. Volume of permits reduced from over 1,200 in 2010 to 144. Number of economic activities subject to licensing declined from 77 to 56. Administrative reform continues - nearly 120 administrative service centers opened in all regions of Ukraine. The first step was taken to reduce number of administrative services and their cost. Task is to complete Unified State Portal of administrative services. Citizens will not have to go to authorities to receive passport, replace driver's license or register new business, but rather use internet.

He reminded that Ukraine has risen to 15 steps in the ranking of the World Bank, which defines conditions for doing business, and in terms of "creating enterprises" – was up by 66 points. Last year, capital investments in domestic production of carbohydrates increased to 11 billion and thus reduced state "gas" dependence. They did so without conflicts with partners, as predecessors left contract in which gas was sold for Ukraine at the highest rate in Europe. Thus, he said, they managed to keep same gas price for people, understanding that Ukrainians today can not afford it. Agreement with the "Shell" company and other foreign partners was signed on sharing products with development of unconventional gas reserves, negotiations on energy production in the Black Sea were completed.

Regions created their own strategic development programs, goals and specific objectives, resources needed for their implementation. An important step was taken in reforming agricultural sector, which over the last three years shows "excellent dynamics". But, of course, this sector has become attractive for investors to restore rural infrastructure, to make appropriate conditions for life.

However, according to Viktor Yanukovych, there are not enough kindergartens and junior schools, and majority of them need overhaul. This is a very large piece of work and not only for authorities but also for representatives of local government, deputies of all levels. People are dissatisfied with quality of medical care, and await developments in medical market. High prices, lack of affordable domestic counterparts are issues, particularly for families with low income. That is, if generalized, people do not just wait, and even require change for the better.

"I feel and understand that we need to accelerate. Need for more effective steps to revive economy and create high-quality "life infrastructure", so to speak" - he said. In his opinion, the State Program to revitalize economy, developed by government, has answers to society needs. Its strategic goal is not only to accelerate growth of macroeconomic indicators, but to transfer national economy on track of intensive outstripping growth through innovation, investment potential. The only way to do this is increasing competitiveness of domestic producers, providing radical improvement of investment climate. Therefore, administrative barriers for business development should immediately be removed; stimulating functions of taxes to be expanded and favorable conditions for investment to be created.

The President promised that he will continue structural reforms in strategic sectors of national economy. Improving quality of transport services and communication, reforming housing and communal services and development building, upgrading infrastructure livelihoods will become steps in improving living conditions of citizens. In the first place they put more support for low-income families with children. Their support will increase in 2013 by 25%, in 2014 – by 39%. Also surcharge on children with severe disabilities will increase by 25%. Orphans with disabilities help is to increase by 37-46%.

Within two years, 85% of preschool children will be provided with a place in pre-school, 2.5 million children will go to different groups, sections, centers of creativity of children by their own preferences. Regional and national summer school for gifted children will operate on an ongoing basis, implementation of the Presidential program "Intellectual future of Ukraine” is planned". In 2013-2014 70% of playgrounds that are in schools and kindergartens will be modernized. There will be a National tournament for school basketball teams before Euro 2015.

After an optimistic report, journalists asked the president first of all about financial support for reforms. Viktor Yanukovych said that reforms are going difficult, but there is no other way. "We have no choice. We started putting things in order, and we have to go this route. You must keep moving forward, constantly modernizing country, constantly seeking innovation" - again he said, adding that country modernization is our common goal and it needs money". But I am glad of the fact that we are moving forward from what we have positive signs. There should be a lot of work. So I am set up for such work - hard, around the clock. I'm leading people who want to go this way ", - said the head of state.

Journalist from Lugansk spoke about unique setting in Alchevsk Metallurgical Plant, which enables processing production waste into electricity. Such technologies are relevant for regions with dysfunctional environmental conditions. What other regions do in this direction? In response, Viktor Yanukovych said that he knows about this project. Indeed, the plant will be practically provided by waste electricity and even sell it. He recalled that Ukraine is among the top ten exporters of metal in the world, producing 46 million tons annually. However, problem is in price of gas, which currently is about $ 510-515. "Now we come to the time when you need to re-do something to help mining and metallurgical complex fight in this competitive world. Here we must take into account tariff policy, and rail transport, and electricity and gas, to have a comprehensive approach to this issue. If we will keep mining and metallurgical complex in general, we will keep the economy" – he said.

NTV reporter asked about EU-Ukraine relations, including implementation of measures required to sign an association agreement with the European Union and how it might affect relations with the Russian Federation. The President in reply said that on February 27 at Cabinet meeting they decided to create special group that will deal with implementation of necessary decisions, such as liberalization of visa regime. "We will have to resolve these issues, primarily for ourselves. Ukraine needs these reforms. And they will harmonize our relationship with Europe, promote harmonization of Ukrainian and European legislation" - he said. Regarding relations with Russia, now we search for cooperation model between Ukraine and Customs Union. Russia is a key country in the CU, which includes Kazakhstan and Belarus. He stressed that economic integration with the Customs Union is very interesting for us, and expressed belief that this interest is two sided.

Meanwhile President replied evasively to reporter's question from "Ukrayinska Pravda" concerning fortunes of his son Alexander Yanukovych, adding that "you have opportunity to ask him personally". "I do not know any details, I know that he is used to work hard, can created a normal working team. The main thing that I demand from him and always tell him about it is that everything he does have to be done transparently, because he is under microscope, including yours. He has long been an adult" - concluded the President.

Journalist from Volyn asked about completion of mine, which needs 60 million UAH. He said that this year funds are allocated, and expressed hope that the new Volyn mine has a great future to become one of the driving forces to boost economy, providing fuel balance for country.

Question of Sergio Cantona from "Euronews" concerned possible agreement with Russian consortium to manage Ukraine's gas transport system. He asked whether Ukraine will lose certain position in relations with the European Union and whether it will hurt national interests. "To answer this question we need to ask what do we want to get. And we want the Ukrainian gas transportation system operate reliably, to be able pumping in gas to Europe - the more the better. And to have an ability for technical upgrade. And we fulfilled this task together with those partners who can help us with this. Russia can guarantee pumping gas volume. If it will guarantee pumping a certain amount of gas, we are responsible for one question" - said Viktor Yanukovych.

Regarding modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system President said that "negotiations are in process, and Russia is ready, together with Ukraine to invest in modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system annually. Does Russia want to take ownership of the Ukrainian gas transport system? Maybe it does. But Ukraine is the owner, and we provide our proposals".

Our proposal, according to the head of state, is very simple: transportation system, or pipe remains in state ownership, it is not for sell or transfer. Future company rents this tube providing pumping gas volume and its modernization. He also stressed that Ukraine is interested in being partners with Europe. "The time will come when we return to this decision closely. I am convinced that if the European institutions as partners to whom we supply gas to Europe will be willing to participate in the system modernization, we would be pleased to consider these proposals. We want to find a cooperation model that would be comfortable for all, that Europe be convinced that the Ukrainian gas transportation system will never stop, neither it can be overlaid, necessary volumes of gas will be pumped into Europe, storage facilities in western Ukraine serve to feed gas European system in winter" - summed Viktor Yanukovych.

Journalist from Vinnitsa reported that last year with the leaders of state support large and modern surgery center was completed, and asked whether it is possible for public funds to finance 89 million UAH for high quality equipment. In response, the President stated: "Where we build a hospital, in the first place we build them modern. We build them in the way that we are not ashamed in front of people. We are looking for the best equipment. And Vinnitsa can not be evaded". He promised to deal with issues of cooperation between journalists and ministers in days of government meetings, as media representatives complained about lack of communication and their estrangement with officials from black ribbons. "I will gather a meeting about this soon and will definitely reply. I am sure that this question should be systematized. Your requirements coincide with my point of view" - he said.

A Cherkassy journalist was interested in question of celebrating the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko birth. "The work volumes planned for the 200th Taras Shevchenko anniversary celebration are assigned, performers are working already. I am the head of the National Committee, and the Prime Minister - of Organizing Committee. We will fulfill all activities planned for 2014. Monitoring is set for this work, and we have 100 percent information about how and where all is done" - assured the President.

A journalist from Moscow was interested in "gas debts" issues of Ukraine. Answering his question, Viktor Yanukovych emphasized that contract signed in 2009 by Yulia Tymoshenko till 2019, makes about $ 6 billion annual losses for country, which are distributed between all residents of Ukraine. "Today money is going to Russia under contract. This is not a fair price, it is not market price. I did not accuse Russia - it defended own interests. I do not know which ways Russia found to persuade signing contract" - he said, calling the contract "noose around neck".

"Tell me, where in the world such sanctions are imposed - 300% penalty for gas shortage? How can we protect ourselves –the state - from infinite price? We have only one way - to reduce gas consumption, and we go this way" - said Viktor Yanukovych, adding that "this is a terrible and biggest problem that we have. If we did not, then we would have resource to solve problems in medicine, utilities, helping the poor ... We are reducing and will go through reduction of gas consumption".

Answering question about fees he received for writing books, Viktor Yanukovych said that he spent it on charity. Thus President read statement, where funds were sent. In 2011, large family of Myhailo Zhar in Molnytsi village Chernivtsi region with 256 orphans won 120 thousand UAH. In 2012, 7 million 432 thousand UAH went to four children under four years. Allowance in amount of 160 thousand UAH was transferred to Victor Puziychuk from Bazar village, Narodychi district, Zhytomyr region, Tarandyuk Anna from Ovrutsky district, Zhytomyr region received 8 ths, she required emergency surgery and treatment abroad, 4 million 682 thousand were transferred to Smykovskyy Olexyy from Ovruch district in Zhytomyr and 1 million 790 thousand UAH – to Lazarenko Veronica from Krivoy Rog, Dnipropetrovsk region.

Journalist from Donetsk region asked about development of coal industry. Viktor Yanukovych said that in 2013 Ukraine will begin construction of three mines with production of synthetic gas, and added that we will increase coal production: last year we produced 85 million tons. "According to our calculations, we need 100-105 million tons of coal to ensure fuel balance. That is, every year production should increase, which means that economy will grow, created jobs for miners gradually will revive mining village" - he said.

Italian journalist Roberto Bodzhorni asked about diversification of energy supply in Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych said that agreement is signed with "Ruhrgas" on 5 billion m3 of gas, and now it is pumped through the European gas system in Ukraine. In addition, there is possibility of building gas terminal in Mediterranean basin, near Bosphorus, making possible to transport up to 10 billion m3 of LNG. Furthermore, we discuss participation in building of gas pipeline from Azerbaijan, from Shah Deniz field, through Georgia and Turkey that this pipeline turned towards Ukraine and went to our underground in west, on border with Europe. It's also interesting because now pumping gas in Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod fell approximately by 40 billion m3. We can pump 120 billion and now - just 81. This means that European region have additional opportunities pumping gas to Europe. "We are looking for such opportunities and understand that if we find more ways to supply gas to Ukraine, market model will work” - said Viktor Yanukovych.

President spoke about imprisonment of opposition leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. Answering journalist from ANSA agency, who connected question of Ukraine’s ability to sign an Association Agreement with EU, Yanukovych said that "issue is really painful", and told that the Cassation Court has not considered case on Lutsenko. "Frankly, I know Yuriy Lutsenko for a very long time. I am sorry for him as a person. He suffers for his stupidity, which he had done. After the Court of Cassation, if he will not be reliesed, I will consider clemency. But I do not want to put pressure on the court in any case" - concluded the President.

Regarding Tymoshenko, President said that it is difficult to give a definite answer, however, expressed belief that "Yulia Tymoshenko should be defended legally. Yet she did not defend legally. Today, the new Criminal Procedure Code allows economic issues humanization, but on one condition, that those losses state inflicted will be repaid".

Press conference lasted for two hours. During this time, 17 media representatives received answers to questions. There was a scandal, which was arranged by journalist Tatyana Chornovol trying to break out of turn to microphone announcing her question to head of state. Presidential guard tried to remove her from the room, but after Viktor Yanukovych intervention journalist was allowed to ask questions and receive answers. A group of journalists also was wearing masks depicting Yanukovych, thus protesting against censorship. However, the President did not react to the idea, and all was limited only to photographing and pictures for operators.

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