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Ukraine

Krichbaum: 'Poroshenko is the right man'

As expected, chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko has won Ukraine's presidential election. Gunther Krichbaum of the European Affairs Committee in German parliament says Poroshenko can lead Ukraine out of its crisis.

DW: Elections went over successfully in western Ukraine, but in the east, in Donetsk and Luhansk, only a small minority was able to vote. Would you consider the presidential elections in general a success?

Gunther Krichbaum: It was to be expected that the separatists in the east would try everything to block the democratic process. People in Moscow fear democracy - and they do in Luhansk and Donetsk, too. The people in Crimea didn't have the opportunity to vote either, even though in our book, they continue to be a part of Ukraine. Still, the results are binding. Before the vote, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law saying that the elections would definitely be valid, no matter the voter turnout.

The frontrunner, billionaire Petro Poroshenko, is the winner. What will change with Poroshenko at the helm of the country?

Mr. Poroshenko has said in the run-up to the elections that he's aiming for a dialogue and that he's open for talks. That's an encouraging sign, because we need an extensive dialogue - especially a continuation of the roundtable talks, which have been conducted by experienced diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger. On the other hand, Poroshenko has also announced he intends to act decisively against the separatists in the east.

In preparation for the elections, some people have said that it's not all that important who wins, but that the main thing is for the elections to be happening at all. Would you agree with this?

I think that Mr. Poroshenko, who has experience as a minister already, is indeed the right man to lead Ukraine out of its difficult situation. But he will not succeed by himself. The presidential elections were also a little test run for the parliamentary elections, which are to be held in the second half of the year. After these, there will be no doubt that the new government has the required democratic legitimization.

That's exactly what Russia has criticized in the past. That's why it's inacceptable that the leaders in Moscow, of all people, have tried everything to jeopardize this democratic legitimization process. And that's why we expect Mr. Putin to not only respect, but accept the election outcome. That would be an important contribution toward deescalating the crisis in Ukraine and toward one day solving it entirely.

You already alluded to this, but in recent days, Putin has stated that he'll respect the results. Do you think that he will stop destabilizing eastern Ukraine now?

For the long term, he has to understand that his behavior will destabilize his own country as well. After all, the economic consequences Russia has to deal with today are already significant: More than 60 billion dollars have been drained from Russia this year! There's a lack of direct foreign investments and, most importantly, Russia is still dependent on imported technology, innovation and know-how. Should these not come in anymore, Russia's economy will suffer significantly.

I also hope that we can make more headway with the roundtable talks. It's important that bridges are built in this country. A dialogue with the separatists is desirable as well - provided they renounce violence.

Are the Ukrainian presidential elections also a new start from the German point of view? Will German policies change now?

I don't see that happening at the moment. After all, among EU members, it was Germany who has played a very constructive role. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has traveled to Ukraine numerous times with his colleagues from Poland and France, and he's also been to Moldova and Georgia. So the German role in the solution of this conflict is not the problem - the European Union needs to continue speaking with one voice.

If Russia isn't willing to take a step toward compromise with Ukraine, economic sanctions have to be seriously considered, even though we don't want that. But the pressure on Russia has to increase if the country won't give in.

German politicians have threatened to implement tougher economic sanctions again and again. How hard would that hit Russia?

I think that these sanctions would be very effective. Russia regards its economic policy purely as energy- and resource-delivery politics. That's, of course, too little to sustain yourself in the long term. A healthy national economy also has to include research and development. And that's why Russia urgently needs our know-how to help its economy recover.

Gunther Krichbaum is a member of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the leader of the European Affairs Committee in the German Bundestag.

Interview: Stephanie Höppner / cb

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