Leave if you’re not determined to fight

Mikhail Khodorkovsky speaking at the Le Monde anniversary celebration at the Opéra Bastille on 21 (?) September. An excerpt in my translation:

Q. Let us discuss Ukraine, our European disaster. This year, you have visited Ukraine several times. You were in Kyiv during the Maidan [revolution]. Could you tell us about that trip and your conclusions?

A. The events in Ukraine were absolutely unexpected for me, as well as for many people in the audience, it seems to me. I felt that I had to explain my stance on this issue. I was unacceptable for me to fit into the ranks of any camp. But to take a stance one needs to get information directly, if possible – and that was possible there. I went to Kyiv, walked over to the Maidan, talked to people there. I saw that the attitude to a Russian, a Muscovite, a Russian speaker was perfectly OK in the Maidan. At that moment, there was no anti-Russian sentiment there. Moreover, when I spoke in the Maidan, a crowd of twenty thousand people chanted: “Russia, rise up!” There was a positive attitude to my country. I promised to these people that I would hold a congress – a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian intellectuals so people would not lose contact with each other even in hard times.

During my next visit, I was offered to take a look at the situation from the other side, and we traveled to Kharkiv and Donetsk. Together with journalists, I interviewed [some of the] people who had seized the regional administration building in Donetsk. All of us were left with the same impression: those were dependent people who were receiving orders from somewhere. At that time we did not understand from where – but no doubt those were orders from Russian special services and members of the [Russian] president’s administration.

I met with Akhmetov and understood his position and the reason while he was behaving so cautiously. He was very much afraid that if he stood up for Ukraine, the Russian government would cancel orders [with his plants in Ukraine], people would lose jobs and would blame him for that.

I met a great number of people who spoke for a united Ukraine – most of them very civil, intelligent [intelligentnye] people. I became convinced of this: In such a situation, if you are not ready for active resistance, you should leave. Because it does not matter that you are in the majority. What matters is there is determination on their side but none on yours. That was a lesson to me.

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