UARU
'The Decision To Annex Crimea Was Taken By One Individual'- Former Russian Duma Member
18 February, 2017

What You Need To Know:

Denys Voronenkov, a former Russian State Duma Member sat down with Hromadske to discuss his decision to move to Ukraine and the consequences of this choice, and to shed light on the workings of in the Russian Duma during his time as a member;

The case against Ukraine’s fugitive ex-President Yanukovych begins in March. “I will present my evidence and everything will be made known;”

Voronenkov is criticized for his close relationships with Russians such as Surkov and Naryshkyn, who oversaw the issues in Crimea and Donbas;

“The decision to annex Crimea was taken by one individual. All the ordinary people were against it, including those in his close circle.”

Denys Voronenkov, a former Russian State Duma Member who fled his native Russia with his wife Maria Maksakova in October 2016 sat down with Hromadske to discuss his decision to move to Ukraine and the consequences of this choice, and to shed light on the workings of in the Russian Duma during his time as a member.

In his first interview, Voronenko gave evidence for the prosecution pertaining to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s treason.

When asked where he discovered the information he says, “it came from somewhere, I had specific knowledge of this area.” The case against Ukraine’s fugitive ex-President begins in March. “I will present my evidence and everything will be made known,” adds Voronenkov.

The former Duma member who has now taken Ukrainian citizenship is criticized for his close relationships with Russians such as Surkov and Naryshkyn, who oversaw the issues in Crimea and Donbas. Voronenkov assures that he was only associated with them because of where he was based and because of his position.

Referring to events in 2014 and more specifically the annexation of Crimea, Voronenkov says that many deputies in the Duma opposed it and would have voted against it. “The decision to annex Crimea was taken by one individual. All the ordinary people were against it, including those in his close circle.”

Hromadske’s Ekaterina Sergatskova spoke to Denys Voronenkov, Russian State Duma Member (2011-2016) in February 2017 in Kyiv.

Your declaration of citizenship raises an interesting question. In our country, the idea of a Russian citizen gaining Ukrainian citizenship is a very topical issue.

Well, it is the law, and in a democratic society we strive for the idea of there being one rule for all. I gained citizenship in strict adherence with the law.

Why did you choose Ukraine?

Look, I see Ukraine as family, the same as I do with Russia. We’re all from mixed marriages.

But there must be a main decisive factor behind why you chose this country. At the end of the day, you could have chosen the United States, Western Europe, Australia. Is it something to do with the single linguistic, cultural area, or what?

On the strength of my work in the secret service, the English offered me a job, they formed the department for financial investigation into Eastern Europe and asked me to work there. The Americans also called me. However, I knew that once you go to America, you can’t come back here.

In your first interview you said that you gave evidence for the prosecution regarding Yanukovych’s treason.  How did you come by that evidence?

Listen, it came from somewhere, I had specific knowledge of this area.  

They say you were in close contact with Surkov, Naryshkyn, people who oversaw the issues in Crimea and Donbas. 

No, it wasn’t like that. We were in contact with those people, we were associated with them because they worked where I was based, because of my position. As we say, in Russia everything is a secret but nothing is secret.

In the prosecution, did you only comment on the intelligence regarding Yanukovych, or did you talk about something else? Russia’s plan for the Donbas, for example.

The trial starts in March. I will present my evidence and everything will be made known. Let’s not try and anticipate anything. Everyone is very interested in the hot topic, the exclusive, but I don’t want to go into detail before it’s time to.

You said that that you feel a certain danger being here? Is that so? What is that in relation to?

We’re not stupid, we understand what’s going on. You see, right now sparks are flying in the Russian media. They’re dragging me through the mud, thinking up ways to make me seem like the bad guy. It means I’ve become important to them, I’ve gotten under their skin. At the moment the government is sacred in Russia. No-one has the right to criticise it. I’ve spoken out on everything, I say it like it is. And I assure you, there is large number of conscious people out there who think the same. But they are afraid. Why are they afraid? I explained this in my article; it’s because of  all the grown men in Russia between the ages of 21 to 60 who have been through the prison system. They herd everyone in there. And for those who haven’t been yet, they can always find a way. It was the same when I apparently ‘organised’ the theft of certain buildings with people who I had never met in my life, I’d never seen them, I didn’t know them at all. I don’t know who these people are! You know, the funniest thing is, when they showed these people the photograph, they said that they knew me.

But why are they trying to get rid of you?

It all took place in secret up until 2013. I knew that they were fabricating a case against me, but officially they always said that I had no such claim. In 2013, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation put me forward for an auditor position at the Accounts Chamber, it was quite a high ranking position, the level of a minister. And they needed to bring me down. In whatever position, I was the enemy. They said I was a criminal. And that’s when the first articles appeared in the press. 

Let’s come back to those articles. Your former colleague at the Federal Drug Control Service thinks that you planned your departure in advance and that you recorded your conversations with senior Russian officials. 

They are sick people, I can’t comment on that. Maybe, they opened a new criminal case against him, they threatened him somehow. They use all kinds of methods.

You talked about your interview on the Russian elections. What do you know about those schemes to manipulate the results?

They are completely fraudulent schemes which we should endeavour to destroy. There are no fair elections anywhere, the protocols are acknowledged and then the result is rewritten. 

Let’s discuss your position on Crimea and Donbas. People dug up your photos taken in Crimea on your Twitter page, where you also stated that you support the annexation of Crimea. 

That is the effect this kind of technology has. My Twitter was hacked a month ago. I had 60 thousand subscribers and there was a  photo from Crimea on my profile where I’m in uniform. I wore it especially for the elections in 2016. It wasn’t on there in 2014. And now they’re using my profile to congratulate Zakhar Prilepin.

But the technology doesn’t allow you to make changes to your previous tweets. You just post new tweets using old profiles. It’s a year since the changes were made?

I don’t care about that. I asked some local hackers to do something about it, but they can’t. They hacked my email which was linked to my Twitter, they hacked my password to Twitter. I can’t delete my account now. 

If we go back to your position on the matter, what do you think, will Russia return Crimea to Ukraine? 

I think that it’s only a matter of time. Of course the current regime will not give it back and they’ll stop at nothing to keep it, including bloodshed. I think that in time, this issue will be resolved in favour of Ukraine. As they say, good things comes to those who wait. Ukrainians have to be patient. Unfortunately, it has already happened. Ukraine is also to blame because it hasn’t shown the will-power. We know that 90% of Security Service staff sided with the FSB. But this is a personal tragedy. Why haven’t people left? They have apartments, houses...It’s a huge issue. But it’s an overwhelming region for Russia to deal with, it will choke on Crimea. 

Let’s go back to the events of 2014. Who from highest ranks, the State Duma deputies, were not publically opposed to the annexation of Crimea?

A huge number of people.I once talked to Ilya Ponomarev and we estimated that around 40 people would vote against it. He said that he found himself alone in the matter and got scared. Of course he was strongly opposed to the government and he talked about it openly. He defended his position till the end. Many others realised how painful it would for them if they did the same. 15 minutes of fame for 10 thousand years of dishonor. I was told directly: you’re 50 meters away from the State Duma, nothing can save you now. Considering  the problems I had been charged with 2013, I weighed everything up, and decided on my vote. If I say what I think, what do I get? I’d end up losing my family, they wouldn’t shy away from doing that. I understood the methods of this government. It doesn’t even compare to the methods of the NKVD, or those that Stalin used. It's that combination of scum and worthlessness that destroys and crushes everything.

You have already said that you, yourself did not vote?

Of course, I avoided it. It goes without saying, it was weak of me. I understood that it was a mistake, a mistake the government made that created serious problems for the country. It was at that moment I decided I didn’t want to live like that and that I would go to Ukraine. Above all else, it’s a way of life. We are hostages. Where do we live?

But you didn’t resist it.

You know, the government tried to cover this up. The decision to annex Crimea was taken by one individual. All the ordinary people were against it, including those in his close circle. 

So what, Surkov opposed it?

Of course.

He was the ideologist.

He was categorically opposed to it, just so you know. Because he is a clever man.

Nevertheless we all know the role Surkov played in the ‘Russian Spring’.

I don’t know what role he played, I just know that he was against the annexation of Crimea.

And the war in Donbass?

There’s nothing I can say about that.