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Russian Envoy, Alexandr Grachev: By Gogols example it is quite clear we have the same religion, culture and history
Apr 15 2009, 16:01
Russian envoy

An interview with the Consul General of the Russian Federation to Ukraine, Alexandr Grachev is not a regular thing to appear on our site. The reason for that is not some kind of closedness of the Russian diplomatic mission, but simply busyness. Mr. Grachev would perhaps like to find time to talk to us more, but it would then harm his direct diplomatic obligations. However our correspondent managed to interview one of the most authoritative, as he is said of, foreign diplomats in the South of Ukraine.

Mr. Grachev, let us start with general questions. What are from your point of view the ways of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, concerning the south part of the country (Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson)? If possible please divide them into the plans for the near future and long-term plans, that is what is the most desirable but difficult to achieve?

Our near and everyday plans are to provide assistance to the citizens of Russia, Ukraine in solving their problems: as of today we daily accept 50 70 people, providing the most various assistance notarial, concerning citizenship, handing out passports, legal assistance and so on.

At the same time we are not limited by consular work only. Consulate General of the Russian Federation is a Russian office in the south of Ukraine. In other words our tasks are providing any kind of assistance to legal and individual persons of the Russian Federation, cultural questions and all that concerns promotion of business (as you know Russian business is rather strongly represented here). The plans are so different

We have been working on the creation of the Centre of Russian Culture for quite a long period. We would like to organize a significant centre for it, if I may say so, to be the home for people of different nationalities, different religions, for those who think Russian culture is native for them or at least very close. The are centres of the kind in Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson organized by other communities, so I think there should be a Russian centre for every citizen of Russia, Ukraine or any other country to be able to visit it.

What about the long-term plans?..

If we are to speak about Russian investments into the region, I would like to say, world financial crisis impacts much our plans. But even under these difficult conditions we are successfully working with our Ukrainian partners and help Russian business that wants to develop significant projects here. In particular we can remember Novaport Holding will collaborate with the city authorities on the reconstruction of Odesa airport. This means serious investments, so I think it is very profitable for both Ukraine and Russia, and for the south of Ukraine first of all.

As you know Russian business operates rather successfully, for instance, in Ukrainian ports. Of course, we are glad there are other directions now, where we cooperate well. And though political cooperation is not really good now, as I understand, both parties have desire to improve it and accelerate the solution of many problems.

If I can say so, there is a wish of some kind of reload similar to that the Russian and the US leader have spoken about. This means we are to refuse numerous stereotypes, some unnecessary barriers in our relations. If we do refuse them, I think the cooperation will move on promptly, in this region in particular.

Does Russian Consulate give any kind of non-consular support to the local Russian population, Russian schools, the Diaspora?

We try to help if we can we supply computers, computer-controlled blackboards, books, first of all books for young children and schoolbooks in Russian In general we think much attention should be paid to the development of the Russian Language. Of course you can teach in your state language but in my opinion it is not reasonable to refuse such a goldmine as the Russian language. The more languages you know the more competitive you are, the more you are needed

Russian is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn, but we have an opportunity to study it easily

I believe this is stupid to give up the language you can easily master. If I am not mistaken Ukrainian Gastarbeiters face certain difficulties in Western Europe, though there none of the kind in Russia. If a person works well, if he or she does not break the law, if he or she is reliable, this person will never lose his or her job in Russia. And even if he or she for some reasons loses it, this person will be able to find another immediately.

Russian Government not once expressed their awareness of Ukraines NATO efforts. Does the Consulate back up (not financially) anti-NATO meetings and protest actions, taking place in Odesa?

Yes, there has been much rumor and misinformation lately, some hints This, though, concerns marginal politicians i.e. politicians of radical type

I cannot say we have some awareness in Russia we have some kind of concern about the NATO intentions of several Ukrainian politicians. This is because we see and realize: the majority of the population is against Ukraines joining the NATO, against Ukraines being in this military and political bloc. As we can see by the results of polls the majority thinks Ukraine should keep its neutral status rather than join the NATO.

What the NATO is we all saw by several examples. One of them is very close to Ukraine morally and geographically: if you happen to visit Belgrade you will see the results of the NATO political decisions having resulted into the bombing.

That is why we would not like Ukraine that is very close to us to be in the bloc. But again, this is your domestic affair; the decision depends on peoples will only. We by no means interfere with Ukrainian sovereign right to make this decision concerning this.

The question I cannot unfortunately skip Tragic death of a Russian Consul Igor Tsvetkov and informational closedness of the Consulate afterwards Are there any detail? What could cause the envoy do this? Who holds the investigation (Ukraine, Russia or mutually)?

We have stared answering this question. There were statements we did not want to give comments on what had happened. This is not really so we are quite open. We called for the Ministry of the Interior representatives immediately. (By the way we are very grateful to Ukrainian militia they were working precisely and professionally.) of course there were our experts involved too. They will disclose the reasons and their character.

To state Igor Tsvetkov was curating financing of the pro-Russian movements is not true, in mild expressions. The diplomatic rules require avoiding stronger words. But unfortunately here we face the example of evident misinformation. Though you are saying he was a consul, a number of mass media, 95 percent approximately, are saying he was a vice-consul. Perhaps that could be believed. The most different things Many of the journalists say he was a press-attaché though he never was one. In the consulate he was occupied with daily consular routine, accepting many people, this can be easily checked out.

They say some nonsense about some money stolen, other things Those who worry about it can relax no money was stolen. His case was stolen, but it contained personal stuff, he called for militia after what had happened. This happened about two months ago, I cannot say more exactly, but no one paid any special attention to it.

I can assure you we do not finance any political organizations. We support for example the veterans of the Great Patriotic War this is true. But for us, figuratively speaking, veterans have no citizenship, they fought for the Soviet Union, for our common motherland, both for Ukrainians and Russians, so giving them help is our sacred obligation.

We help schoolchildren travel to, say, St. Petersburg, Moscow, other Russian cities. We are organizing exhibitions of childrens drawings etc. But this kind of help is rather clear, comprehensible. So I think this is not really right to invent and spread rumors. Though we understand where these rumors come from and why they appear.

So what provoked the silence of the Consulate General then?

Why we did not speak immediately? There is moral and ethic aspect of that. We tried and defended Tsvetkovs family from that negative stuff. We talked to many journalists, to many people and asked them to give us a chance to undertake what was necessary. Now that the Family left Ukraine we are open to comments. The proof of our openedness is that, as I have already said, we invited Ukrainian militia for them to be able to get acquainted with everything and make their conclusion. We hide nothing.

Lets deviate from this tough problem. On 10 April Odesa celebrates its 65th anniversary of the Deliberation from the fascists. Will you participate in any celebrations?

This is an important date for us. I attended such events in Kherson and Mykolaiv and for sure I will participate in the celebrations here in Odesa. I am sure representatives of many veteran organizations and the Duma will also com.

You are sure to have heard there is the Watch of Memory being held: specialists from Russia and Ukraine are to find and rebury the remnants of several dozens soldiers who died then in the Oblast. There is an expression saying the war isnt over until the last soldier is buried. We unfortunately have hundreds thousands of unburies soldiers. It makes no difference their bodies are in Novgorod or Odesa Oblast we have to bury them and pay our honours.

We can speak a lot on this account, but we you look in the eyes of those who took part in it, you get to understand Ukraine and Russia are really sister-countries. It is not quite clear whether there more Russians living in Ukraine or Ukrainians living in Russia. That is why this anniversary is a really important date for us.

A few days age Ukraine and Russia celebrated the 200th birthday of the writer closely connecting our two countries, I think, even more than Pushkin or Shevchenko. To Gogols jubilee a tremendous picture Taras Bulba was filmed. What ideas expressed in the film you think to be hot for todays life?

I watched this movie in the cinema theatre Moscow. I liked the film, I was amused the cinema was full of people, practically no vacant seats. After the film finished the audience burst with applauce

We were sitting in regular seats and I was interested in peoples reaction to the film. I can say the spectators did not leave the place when it had finished. Most of the were happy they had seen it.

We remember well Zaporizhia was an outpost of the Russian land. If it had not existed it would have been much more difficult for Russia. That is why not only Ukrainian people are proud of Cossacks but Russia as well.

I think the film is good, Gogol is common for Russia and Ukraine. He is as close to us as Pushkin and Lermontov together with other prominent authors. As apposed to our todays predictors say in culture or politics, I would like to say reading Gogol you clearly understand we have the same religion, the same culture and the same history.

Although we live in independent states today we have so much in common that it is stupid to disregard it. It would be much easier to overcome the crisis if we worked together. In our country and mentality there is so much in common the film again demonstrates and wisely hints: we are to be together!

Thank you very much for the interview

Thank you.

Anna Ostashko


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