Last week I flew to Kiev to interview President Petro Poroshenko, also known as the “Chocolate King” and one of Ukraine´s richest oligarchs.
President Petro Poroshenko (Photo from Times,
I forgot to take my camera to the interview)
FL: Mr President, it sure is impressive to have this opportunity. So let´s get started. How bad has it become?
PETRO POROSHENKO (PP): The situation is getting worse. As you know, my background is in business (mostly chocolate, TV stations, and a little bit of this and that on the side). But I´m the Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and I should be in charge of the country.
FL: But what do you make of this escalating violence?
PP: I am a President of peace. I tell them many times and we are proposing just to have a ceasefire. This puts me in charge of the people of Donetsk.
FL: And what are the chances that the fighting will end this week?
PP: Fortunately not yet. First we have to take the border region and cut off supplies to the Russian speaking population within the Ukraine. They are rebels and terrorists. Strike that, call them terrorists. Sounds better.
FL: What are the chances of a truce now?
PP: I know many people think the Russian speaking population doesn´t trust me because I am oligarch. You know, I had to make a living. (Former President) Yulia Tymoshenko made her fortune in natural gas. Did you know she was called the “Gas Princess”? I´m only ¨Chocolate King¨, now is my turn. The Russian speaking population in Eastern Ukraine can trust me. I made a deal to get money from the Europeans and the IMF, and I´m going to be clean. This I promise to them.
FL: So you will stop your oligarch ways. Will you sell your TV station?
PP: I think that the TV station should be owned by me. It´s good to stay in business, this will help me to treat other oligarchs and foreign businesses with fairness. We need to help the economy.
FL: What about your followers?
PP: We consider my followers can be a very great danger to the escalation of the situation but again we have very good armed forces, very well equipped by USA in the future. We keep our own bad guys in line. And we are for peace, the other side are bad guys. I have with me this sign, “Je Suis Charlie”, to show my solidarity to fight Donetsk terrorists.
Donetsk Airport Tower after shelling during the
battle to control the town (from abcnews.com)
FL: But why is the escalation happening now?
PP: I think it’s better to ask Russian-speaking rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They are crazy guys. Have their own oligarchs loyal to Russia, you know. They think they should be independent because that´s Russian people territory. That´s crazy. They are Russians but they live in Ukraine. Need to adapt to change, Soviet Union is gone, Russians need to lose territory, and that´s the way it goes.
FL: You said you were meeting with Christine Lagarde, because you’re waiting for funds from the IMF to stiffen your resolve. What are you going to ask her?
PP: We have prepared a memorandum asking for money. If the West wants me to stare down Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs I need a big payday. And we can reform the…. we aspire to be like Rumania.
FL: Do you need more money? How much money do you need from the IMF?
PP: We need, definitely. We need more money.
FL: Of course.
PP: This is just a pillow, a financial pillow for the reform we should do. Call it Chocolate Gift from the West to m… I mean Ukraine.
FL: You met yesterday with George Soros and with delegates here from the European Union, apart from money for this pillow, would you be asking for mattress size money?
PP: I don’t have to be -- I don’t tell you a very big secret. From Canada to Japan, from European Union to the United States, from different other countries including the Middle East. We get money. Even Switzerland. Those bank gnomes are very hard negotiators, but they will help us move the money to the right places.
FL: So, have you spoken to Russian officials?
FL: Are the Russian separatists going to be offered a Federal solution, some sort of Autonomy?
PP: No, no. We are ready and we are hoping for a discussion. We make offers after we seal the border. We can talk about that later. Tell me, do countries in Europe give autonomy to their Russian populations? No.
FL: All right, President, thank you so much. And good luck, you sure sound like you´ll need it to take over Eastern Ukraine.
PP: Thank you for support.
FL: A very difficult situation and of course, I guess the West isn´t reluctant to give you the cash rewards you need. But I´m not sure they´ll be there if the Russians start to cut off their gas supplies to Europe. And Obama sure has his hands full trying to recolonize Iraq.
PP: I go now to visit Merkel, tell her not to worry. Bye bye.