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Politics

Ukrainian opposition is 'lacking in content'

If the Ukrainian protest movement seeks an efficient end to the country's crisis, it should have accepted Yanukovych's power sharing compromise, says Jelena Hoffmann, an honorary consul for Ukraine based in Leipzig.

DW: Ms. Hoffmann, when were you last in Ukraine?

Jelena Hoffmann: It's been a while, at least six months for sure. But of course I am in constant contact with Ukrainian citizens due to my role as honorary consul for Ukraine.

Are you also in contact with the government?

No, only by way of the embassy.

Do you have some idea as to why Yanukovych offered to appoint the opposition to the government?

Of course, it's the goal of any government to defuse a crisis situation. So that's one reason why Yanukovych did that. I think you could also suppose - provided you don't completely think ill of him - that he believes the opposition's participation could help to lead the country out of its crisis. However, one thing is clear: He's not going to give up his post voluntarily.

Should the opposition have taken his offer?

In my view, the offer wasn't to be underestimated. The opposition wants to take over power, and Yanukovych made the proposal of letting them share the power. If it's only about deposing Yanukovych and having new elections, then the opposition will insist on that. But if it's about leading the country out of crisis, then it wouldn't have been a bad idea for the opposition politicians to accept this offer.

Does Vitali Klitschko lack the political experience for a situation like that?

Absolutely! He is not an experienced politician in the sense you mean. He's not proven himself in politics, never occupied any real offices. For me, personally, what's lacking somewhat in this entire situation is the content.

How so?

One aspect of the content is deposing Yanukovych and holding new elections. But what comes after that? Why does he want to do that? What does Mr. Klitschko stand for? That's still in question at the moment.

So you believe the opposition is not concerned about the good of the country, but only with deposing Yanukovych?

That's speculation. I do think, based on what's been said so far, that Klitschko would like to become the new president and, as such, that he wants to depose the old president and prompt new elections. I can't get inside Mr. Klitschko's head. I can only say that, in the current situation, where a quick and decisive decision is needed for the country, a new election will not bring a quick solution. The demonstrators also want Yanukovych to be removed from office. Essentially, it's the western Ukrainians. They don't believe Yanukovych will put the country on a path toward forging ties with the European Union.

Critics view Yanukovych's offer as a stalling tactic. Do you agree?

I'm not sure that's the case. I can only say one thing: If Yanukovych offers the opposition participation in the government, that means the opposition is involved in what goes on in the country and takes on responsibility. I think that's an offer that would help Ukraine more in this situation right now than new elections.

Meanwhile, there are also protests in the eastern part of the country. What do you make of that?

If you look at what's gone on in Ukraine and the development of the country in recent times, you can see that it's not in good shape, neither economically nor socially. Of course, many people live in the eastern part of the country who are not happy with the current situation. The relationship to Europe there, however, is completely different than it is in western Ukraine.

It's not the case that eastern Ukrainians don't want ties with the EU. The entire country wants to spur growth with its shared values with the EU. I think, though, that the EU misjudged eastern Ukraine's relationship to Russia. Eastern Ukraine and Russia depend on one another economically and socially. That's why eastern Ukrainians are asking what will become of this relationship.

Increasingly, right-wing extremists are turning up among the demonstrators. Can that become a problem?

Unfortunately, it's always the case that nationalists try and use such conflicts to play into their hands. It can, indeed, become a problem, but this danger exists only in western Ukraine. People must keep it in mind and do all they can in order to prevent these extremist tendencies from getting a platform.

Jelena Hoffmann (66) was born in Moscow and moved to East Germany after her marriage in 1975. Today, she lives in Leipzig and is considered a specialist in German-Ukrainian business and political relations. Since 2008, she has served as an honorary consul for Ukraine in Germany and is responsible for the state of Saxony.

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