My childhood passed in the cradle of the Zaporozhian Sich – on the island of Khortytsa, where I grew up with other kids, fi shed, learned to swim against the stream, grew wise… Ukrainian Cossacks, steppes, mounds… All these left a remarkable trace in my memory… The atmosphere inspired. At that time we could not understand the Proto-Zumerum inscriptions on the Stone Tomb, but we went around and climbed all over the caves and grottoes. Now, remembering the childhood, I understand that such monuments, such servers of civilization must necessarily be studied, propagated and talked about to the whole world. After all, entire archives of ancient knowledge of astronomy, agriculture, medicine already existed on our land 14 thousand years ago…

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко
Валентин Наливайченко в дитинстві в Запоріжжі із сестрою Тетяною (1978 рік)

Why is this downplayed?

Due to the lack of understanding of the Ukrainian land, the greatness and signifi cance of those treasures, which were created by our ancestors and without a doubt are pearls of world civilization at the level of Stonehenge, Chichen Itza, the Egyptian Pyramids, by the authorities. In addition, I am convinced that for centuries the Russian Empire has been ideologically robbing us in every possible way, wiping out the traces of civilizations on our land, suppressing and destroying the true historical facts and objects of cultural heritage. And awareness of all this is a sign of self-respect, not only for Zaporozhian Cossack Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, but for every Ukrainian citizen. I am for Ukrainians being represented with our millennial and multifaceted history worthily and equally in world civilization. We have what to be proud of, we have what to learn.

What does the concept of friendship mean to you?

Friendship is actions, responsibility and trust. The most important thing in friendship is mutual respect. A friend will always come to the rescue, will never give up and will not betray.

Are you a businessman or a politician? What are you interested in more?

I am a public fi gure and a politician. I fi rmly believe that it is impossible to combine politics and business. I am interested in a lot of things, fi rst of all, foreign policy, studying foreign languages, history and culture of diff erent countries, problems of our state’s security.

Is it diffi cult to be a politician in Ukraine?

It is not easy to be a politician. And not only in our state. The only thing which I categorically disagree with is that politics is a dirty thing. That is not true at all. It all depends on the ideals and principles that the politician adheres to. I have an answer to all this: do not get dirty, do not steal and it will not be so hard for you! You know, just as it is said: fi ghting corruption is very diffi cult. It is diffi cult for those who are corrupted, for whom the state service is a business. Power and business should be divided. This is a question of the country’s survival. Developed democratic states have done so. We need to take advantage of their experience here and now.

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

That is to say, it’s easy to do politics?

If you take up politics not in a corrupt and dirty way, then – yes. You cannot use politics as a tool for enrichment, and the power as an instrument for revenge, massacre with political opponents, and business appropriation. Personally I am often told that I am extremely critical towards power, both old and current. And what should I do? When the names have partially changed, but the corrupt unjust system – has not. Corruption in the halls of power is an internal aggressor now, which destroys lives and prospects of every Ukrainian. Ukraine needs large-scale and rapid changes, a complete reboot of power. Physical and spiritual catharsis. And you do not need to think and invent anything. For a long time already the developed European states have lived according to fair laws, and not by «concepts» (the rules of the underworld)

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What is E-declaration for Ukraine? Advisability?

For Ukraine, this is the fi rst step in the fi ght against corruption. E-declaration, fi rst of all, is necessary for all state employees without exception. And the higher an offi cial is, the tougher requirements imposed on them should be. As for me personally, it has been clear since 2007. When I headed the Security Service of Ukraine I was the fi rst one on the Service’s website, who started publishing own declarations. And more than that, I forced all my deputies to do the same, although it was not foreseen by any legal act in Ukraine at that time. I believed and believe that it should be exactly like that! Each offi cial must undergo an «X-ray» declaration, clear themselves as at confession. And in 2014, my innovative actions became the norm of the law. Honestly speaking, Ukrainian Parliament omitted the main thing – responsibility for the illegal enrichment in the halls of power: deprivation of mandate and anticorruption court. How is it operated in civilized countries? For example, in the tax system of Finland, where I worked at a diplomatic position, there is a clear rule that is strictly adhered to. If you are elected to parliament or become a minister and have one declaration at the beginning, and in a year this declaration has diff erences in the direction of enrichment, then the tax service confi scates via the courts everything which is illegally obtained or does not have any explanation into the state budget. That is why E-declarations in legal states are the dress code of conscience for every state employee, lawmaker, president!

Many politicians promote the idea of «zero declaration». Is it fair towards society?

No. However you call it, anyway it will still be a folding-screen, a way to justify a corruptor in the halls of power. My position is clear: to go for the dismantling of the corruption system rigorously and ban on doing business for all the personnel throughout the power vertical. Corruption must be constantly attacked and destroyed in all its forms. It is necessary to launch a clear plan to combat a corruptive hydra. First of all, it is necessary to deprive the authorities, including the tax, customs and law enforcement agencies of those functions that lead to the possibility of committing corruption, immediately. Secondly, everything that has been stolen by offi cials from the president to the deputy ministers must be – via the courts – confi scated in favor of the state. And thirdly, persons who were at least once associated with corrupt practices in the government should be removed from their positions without the right to work for the state service.

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

Of course. You said «via the courts». Perhaps it is necessary to initiate a judicial reform at fi rst?

Sure. It is high time to change the judicial system, to upgrade the judiciary establishment, to give people the right to elect and dismiss judges in places throughout the country. Nowadays it is urgent to create an anticorruption court. Unfortunately, this government has not reformed the courts, has not created a system of justice and fairness. In fact, no reform takes place. Just look at how the courtroom activities against the former fugitive president Viktor Yanukovych and other perpetrators of crimes against the members of the Revolution of Dignity are executed. None of the persons named has been sentenced by this time. The presidential group in the parliament sabotages the establishment of a tribunal for crimes against the Revolution of Dignity – as well as the setting up of the anticorruption court to punish corrupt offi cials in this power. An independent anti-corruption court, in my opinion, should act upon:

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transparent contest for the election and appointment of judges; with rigorous powers of consideration and sentencing in anti-corruption investigations against high-ranking offi cials.

Fish, as you know, rots from its head. Therefore, it is there where a sword of justice must be directed. Here is a specifi c example – the case of Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine (SFSU). There must be a sentence, there must be punishment, but in a which court? All citizens were waiting for justice, the most active ones hold a mass-meeting near the court, but how did everything fi nish? He was released on colossal bail of 100 million UAH, and now has found a way to return the mortgage. There are only imitation and discrediting everywhere in this power … And I claim:

And what do we have regarding the Crimea?

Regarding the Crimea? The current government of Ukraine allows trade in full blast. Semi-trailer trucks go back and forth every day. There is a similar situation with Russia. And is it a state policy? I have long argued and insisted that all relations with the aggressor should be stopped and, at least, the visa regime should be imposed. This position is a wedge, which, unfortunately, is not enough for the current Ukrainian leaders. First of all, it concerns the President and the Minister for Foreign Aff airs. And there is no need to talk about other governmental institution, they are superfl uous here. In order to make a decision on the visa regime with Russia, political will of these two offi cials is enough. If not, let them go to people and explain.

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

So … And what should be done with our laborers?

Work permits are a separate topic. Nowadays our citizens are forced to receive permission from the authorities of the Russian Federation to work, register, etc. The visa regime is an additional leverage to prevent terrorists, saboteurs, criminals from us, and also a barrier to using forged passports. When the decision is made, Ukrainian diplomacy, in particular, the consular service will do its job very quickly. And when there is no solution, and there are only double standards, it is diffi cult to do anything. I think we must develop a clear strategy to protect the state. I’m not a prophet, but I will not be surprised if the government offers a new, yet another format for negotiations in the autumn. Instead of «Minsk» something else will appear. And the country needs not empty chants and manipulations, but a specifi c and consecutive strategy. This strategy should inevitably consist of increased defense capabilities, the launch of defense enterprises, job creation and the establishment of humanitarian ties. It is important to try to improve people’s lives in every possible way, fi rst of all, in the liberated territories.

Is this, in fact, the militarization of the country?!

First of all, this is a question of the country’s defense capability. And do not be afraid of this. Let our enemies be afraid of us! Aggressor understands only force. And we need is to bring our lands and our people back. And there should be such a goal, such an action plan in the Ukrainian authorities. Because hanging around from Minsk 1 to Minsk 2, and so on, is not constructive, we are losing time and opportunities.

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Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

You are well aware of the issues. But, are there many parliamentarians in Ukraine that think in the same way as you do?

Unfortunately, the parliament is slowing down very much today. It is stuck in minor and petty things. And nowadays, more than ever, we need brave and decisive actions.

Will the Ukrainian diplomacy be able to withstand the hail of unanswered questions?

I remember the time at the beginning of the Ministry of Foreign Aff airs of Ukraine establishment. At that time I still was a young diplomat, but my mentors were the real pillars, patriots: from Minister Zlenko to Minister Tarasiuk. Whoever I would call now, these were the people who deliberately made the choice of profession in their lives. It was hard to work then, there were small salaries, but it was interesting. People were in a hurry to work, the eyes burned, the hearts burned. And there was a tremendous sense of own dignity and responsibility. There was a huge responsibility for own, at that time still young, state – Ukraine. My diplomatic career is remembered by the fact that we, young diplomats, worked on creating a consular service. We were engaged in information policy, created a positive image of independent Ukraine at the international level. Today, when Ukraine has suff ered from Russia’s aggression for more than three years, there are many threatening factors, both external and internal. Life circumstances wage battle daily and often not according to the rules. But someone should do this job. And diplomats have to do it. After all, the war will end once anyway. And not necessarily because of the lack of bullets – but due to the loyalty and professionalism of the diplomats.

Are diplomacy and intelligence always identical concepts?

No. These are not identical concepts. Ukraine needs to adopt a key state decision on the issues of intelligence. The security service of the country should become a counter-intelligence unit and a combat unit to fi ght terrorism. And Ukrainian reconnaissance on the outside must fully secure the state’s interests in opposing aggression and terrorism. Both services should work as the only mechanism for protecting the state. Time and national interests require such confi guration. This will give the opportunity to save money and resources, and increase effi ciency.

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

Ukraine and NATO – what are the prospects and consequences? Diff erent thoughts fl oat around. Some are for non-aligned status, it is said, this will reduce the degree of confl ict with the aggressor. Others are for Alliance membership. It is clear that for Russia all neighboring countries, and especially Ukraine, are certain sanitary zones, a kind of protection belt against the NATO armies. What is to be done?

My answer to this is fundamental. Nowadays Ukraine needs to become a candidate for membership in the EU and the North Atlantic Alliance. Each agency needs to carry out serious reorganization work for integration into the EU and NATO. We need to change the legislation and raise the level of our military offi cers’ maintenance to meet the standards of NATO, and there are 1250 of them. Ukraine’s membership in NATO defi nitely meets national security interests of Ukraine. We must become a part of a collective defensive Alliance in order to protect our nationhood and territory.

What secret could you share with the rest of the world?

I can reveal my life credo:

Валентин Олександрович Наливайченко

Interviewed by Sergii Syvak