Former Poland’s President on Orange Revolution, War with Russia, and Polish-Ukrainian Relations

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

The memoirs of the former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski (1995-2005) in the book "The President" have become super popular on the Polish book market.

With the permission of the Znak Literanova publishing house and with the support of the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation, EuroPravda could published some conversations related to Ukraine and Polish-Ukrainian relations in the article "I promised Yanukovych that I would accuse him of bloodshed." Kwaśniewski's memories of Maidan.

There were already demonstrations when the phone rang at 3 AM. I would only receiv a few calls in this time.

I was connected with Kuchma. I hear that the man, usually the embodiment of calm, is trembling, voices around him (meaning he is not alone), saying: "Help! I have a terrible situation here. I don't want bloodshed."

I imagined that the President of Ukraine was sitting with a group of hawks, probably with the head of his administration Medvedchuk. They wanted him to send the army and law enforcement to the Maidan, with obvious consequences.

I called advisors in the morning and said that we need to go. I wanted, however, not only Polish support.

I called Javier Solana (the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs back then), he agreed. Adamkus (President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus), an older man with good political intuition, also agreed.

We met in Kyiv. The city center was already busy wih the Maidan. No government building was functioning.

I started persuading Kuchma that the only way out is to organise something like a round table.

Putin sent Boris Gryzlov, the hen chairman of the State Duma. He was a terribly difficult person. The second appointed person was Viktor Chernomyrdin, the then Russian ambassador to Ukraine.

The negotiations sometimes reminded me the best plays of Chekhov or Gogol. Especially the arguments between Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

The idea was to admit that the elections were falsified. Yanukovych helped us due to his limited intelligence.

I took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Gerhard Schröder (the Chancellor of Germany). I explained the situation to him and said, "Listen, we need to turn to the Supreme Court and repeat the elections. The conflict will not turn into a civil war like that."

Schröder called me after a while: "Well, you set me up. I had the most difficult and worst conversation with Putin in my entire life."

But he talked to him. And Putin, willingly or unwillingly, agreed.

Russians understand the events of the Orange Revolution in their own way.

Putin himself later told me, "This is a dispute between two empires about whose Ukraine will be."

"Are you crazy?" I exclaimed.

On the full-scale invasion of Russia:

The war has showed that Zelenskyy is a brave man. What he replied to the Americans who offered him evacuation, "I need ammunition, not a ride," will go down in history.

Putin miscalculated again.

Now it is impossible to come up with a good scenario for Ukraine. According to Zelenskyy and Ukrainians, this is at least a return to the border line before 24 February 2022.

Even with huge deliveries of weapons from the West, this may prove impossible.

It is difficult for Zelenskyy to determine the goal of the war. That's why we need to give Ukrainians perspective (EU membership). If we did not give them hope, we would destroy their morale.

Poland cannot just be active in Ukrainian affairs. We must be hyperactive: they are fighting for us.

Ukraine's accession to the European Union is also about the idea of a Polish-Ukrainian union.

Then we will not have a border, but there will be common interests, common systems that work.

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