Transcription of Savik Shuster's interview with Hromadske
- Savik, do you plan to return after the election results? Obviously, Vladimir Zelenskyi will be the next president of Ukraine. We saw on your blog on YouTube, you have analyzed a lot in live broadcasts, followed the events of this campaign. So will the famous Ukrainian TV host Savik Shuster return to Ukraine?
- I do not think that the loss of Petro Poroshenko is related to my return to Ukraine. I can return to Ukraine at any time, because this is the country in which I’ve lived and live, and therefore it does not depend on President Petro Poroshenko or the future President Vladimir Zelenskyi. Yes, I really was quite active in discussing the entire election campaign during the first and second rounds, because I created a foundation together with like-minded people, my former employees, and editors. The foundation is called the Open Mind Foundation. We study public opinion through mass emotions. This is a completely new approach; it is revolutionary, even for us in many ways. And the Ukrainian presidential campaign was the first one where we tried our method. Now we want to do the same in Lithuania, where on May 12 the first round of presidential elections will be held. Basically, I am now trying to work more at the international level. The European elections are ahead of us, and then there will be Ukrainian parliamentary elections. As for Ukraine, it is my native country. If we succeed again in trying to do something independent of those people who own television channels, of course, together with my colleagues, we will try to implement it and I will be very happy to do it.
- Tell us about the mass emotions. What were they like? What does this mean? What emotions did you experience during this campaign? What’s to be done about the fact that the 25 percent who voted for Poroshenko are very negatively disposed towards the 75 percent who voted for Zelenskyi?
- The method that I use is very complex. Of course, negative emotions are crucial. Presidential candidates ignite fear, humiliation or hope in people. From the very beginning of the first round until the end of the second one, Petro Poroshenko caused a great deal of humiliation. Because for him, it was “a struggle for his own power and not for the welfare of people”, according to the answers of our respondents. In the second round, we realized that “he made money from the war” and this humiliated people. You know, about 75 percent of people in our study said that they felt humiliated by the behavior and policies of the president. And the same 75 percent voted for Zelenskyi.
In the first round, we noted that the president evoked an emotion of pride, and this is true, because this was the only candidate who had worked as president for five years, and he really has achievements: the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox church; the army, which, in general, stood with its head held high; and visa-free travel. So, 10 percent of Ukrainians feel pride stemming for these achievements. But Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko doesn’t evoke a lot of hope among people. It happened neither in the first round nor in the second. There was hope in Zelenskyi. The hope, basically, is that this “new generation will oust the old corrupt one”. That is why Ukrainians voted for Zelenskyi: because the old generation must leave Ukrainian politics, it is necessary to start anew: (for politicians) to be more or less honest, transparent, and work for the sake of the people. Today we are discussing not so much Zelenskyi and Poroshenko, but the choice of the Ukrainian people. It is much more important. And the ratio of 75%: 25% is a very bright, definite answer from the people - they no longer want to live in the past. That’s it. Case closed.
- Savik, you watched the entire campaign from the outside. We, as journalists in Ukraine, were concentrated here inside. But on the outside, as a referee, how do you see this campaign - how clean was it? What do you think, how will the media act now, since we see a certain relationship between Vladimir Zelenskyi and the television channel 1 + 1? Everyone, you know, is already beginning to talk about this particular channel developing a monopoly in the market in the future. How do you assess this situation?
- It's a difficult question. I followed the campaign carefully enough. The channels in Ukraine belong to the oligarchs; the oligarch has his own position. This position is reflected in the politics of the channel and therefore is reflected during the election campaign. These are what could be called “negotiations” between oligarchs. This is not very good; personally, I do not like it at all. As for the future, and whether 1 + 1 will become a monopoly channel - I don’t think so. If the oligarchs and politicians, including Zelenskyi, the future president of Ukraine, did not understand the meaning of this vote, did not understand that 75 percent no longer want to live in the past, then perhaps the people will take to the streets and squares again. I do not know how it will end. I won’t mince words. In our study, every fifth Ukrainian was afraid that if Petro Poroshenko wins, then a third Maidan is possible. Therefore, I think that it is very important for the people who are in power today or who come to power in the future to understand that the life we lived, (where a small group of people) shared control over television space, and somehow influenced people's minds all the time on the basis of their own interests - can no longer be an option. That era is over. I really hope so.
- There are rumors that the general director of 1 + 1, Olexandr Tkachenko, may head the administration of president-elect Zelenskyi. What do you think? Do you have any views regarding this set-up and how would you asses such a possible appointment?
- I didn’t really want to discuss personalities, but since you asked me such a question, I will answer you very frankly and very directly - this would be a very bad signal.
- Because Olexandr Tkachenko is a servant. Do you understand? And Ukraine today does not need servants.
- But now a “servant of the people” will come to power.
- Tkachenko never served the people. Tkachenko served the one who paid him.
- And the last question: have you already received offers to return to Ukrainian television and are you ready for this? If this is the case, which channel do you plan to work for? Or do you just want to create something independently?
- On the one hand, I like what we are doing now so much, and I really want to continue. On the other hand, of course, I want to work in Ukraine. I’ve spoken with my friends, we’ve been discussing this, of course: we would like to continue the work of our channel, which would be independent of all these people who are trying to belabor society with their interests, but so far, there have been no proposals. I want to be engaged in both the foundation and work in Ukraine.