Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviews Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs


Ukrainian internal affairs minister: The separatists ‘will be punished severely’

By Lally Weymouth, Washington Post
Published: April 21

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, sat down with The Post’s Lally Weymouth on Monday in Kiev to discuss events in southeastern Ukraine. Excerpts:

Q. What is the status of the several journalists reportedly kidnapped today in the southeast?

A. The journalists were already released.

All of them?

As far as I know, all of them. In any case, we understand that this zone in Slovyansk is where the terrorists are active, so when a journalist enters there, he or she should realize very well that there is a risk. [Separatists] are also shooting peaceful citizens.

Do you think the Russians will actually release the [government] buildings, as they said they would in last week’s Geneva meeting? How do you see the situation evolving?

Russia cannot take over this region because Russia doesn’t have the overwhelming support of the citizens living there. Russia is taking advantage of the depressed condition of the local economy of these regions. During the last four years, [former Ukrainian president Viktor] Yanukovych and the Party of Regions brought that part of the country to desperate conditions and the people are poor. And now the Russians are playing this card. Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are among the poorest areas [in] the Donetsk region. But even in spite of that situation, in the city of Kramatorsk [the Russians] do not have the level of support that they expected. We do not behave radically there for one reason.

When you say “radically,” do you mean you don’t fight the terrorists?

We are not acting radically in that region for two reasons. One is we do not want to hurt the peaceful population. And the second reason is we don’t want to turn the population against the central government. But that does not mean it will stay like this forever. There are limits to everything. Tomorrow, the holidays will be finished and the announced Easter truce will be finished.

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