Olivier Védrine is a French political scientist and professor and one of very few foreigners who having worked in Russia for many years now resides in Ukraine.
He has his own English-language news show on Ukrainian television the “Western Voice with Olivier Vedrine” on Obozrevatel TV station, or Oboz.tv and is the Chief editor of "Russian Monitor" (a newspaper of the Russian opposition)
Olivier left Russia in February 2014, where he was the chief editor of the Russian version of the French National Defense Review, in protest at the annexation of Crimea.
In the wake of the nerve agent attacks in Salisbury, New Europeans interviewed Olivier about the situation in Ukraine and the Russian opposition.
New Europeans: What brought you to Kiev?
Olivier Vedrine: I arrived in Ukraine almost 6 years ago, originally invited by a distant cousin. I have relatives in Ukraine and in Russia. I came to Kiev to build a business school with European standards. The first year was not easy, administration problems delayed my project. The Revolution arrived and very quickly I joined my Ukrainian friends. I had already given several conferences on the European Union in Kiev universities before Maidan started. It is therefore natural that I became an activist! I have spoken several times on Maidan's stage, I organized trips to Kiev on Maidan of my friend Henri Malosse, when he was the President of the European Economic and Social Committee.
Why did I do Maidan? I just saw from the start that my Ukrainian friends were fighting for the values I believe in and I saw next to the Ukrainian flag flutter the flag of the European Union, my flag!
I was most of the time at the House of Trade Unions, I also went to Independence Square, I discussed with people on the barricades. I quickly understood that this revolution was first a revolution for Ukraine to change system, more and more the fight was not only to go to the European Union, nor to oppose Russia but more and more this fight was a fight for Ukraine, for a new Ukraine!
New Europeans: How has the situation with Russia changed over the last six months from your perspective in Kiev?
Olivier Vedrine: Putin increased his control on the Russian people and continuing to destroy all kind of opposition. All the members of the real opposition are in exile, arrested, in jail or were killed. The Putin’s period in Russia will be more and more like the Brezhnev's period, a period of stagnation and the illusion of a powerful Russia.
Putin wants to be like a new Stalin but Stalin had no bank accounts abroad, Stalin had an ideology, Putin has no ideology.
New Europeans: How is the mood in Ukraine, and in Kiev in particular ?
Olivier Vedrine: People are living with the stress of a war and the stress of an economic crisis. They are afraid about the next step of the Putin strategy against Ukraine, they want the reforms to be done more quickly because they want to live like we live in the western world. Their only hope is to be one day like all the Europeans of our democratic Europe.
New Europeans: Is compromise possible with Russia?
Olivier Vedrine: No compromise possible, in this way I am in the same way of thinking than Winston Churchill when some persons wanted to negotiate with Hitler. Putin lies always, we cannot believe him.
New Europeans: How do you expect Russia's attitude and behavior to change (if at all) following Putin's election?
Olivier Vedrine: Following Putin’s re-election we have two scenarios. In the first one Putin will present a successor, as a new Prime Minister, and this man will be the next president of Russia in a few years. Such a person will be more open to reform and to engagement with the West ir order to avoid the isolation of Russia . The second scenario sees Putin will staying in power until his own end. He will nominate a Prime Minister to be like the previous one , i.e.. his puppet.
New Europeans: What should we do in Europe to counter Russian influence, protect Ukraine and safeguard our values and interests?
Olivier Vedrine: We are in a new cold war, we have to do what we did to win the previous one.
Olivier is already into his 12th episode of the current affairs talk show. It’s not his first one in Ukraine. He used to host “Weekly with Olivier Vedrine” on UA.TV and, before that, “UA Tea Time” on First National Channel with Sergiy Velichansky. He presented more than 140 TV shows for free to support Ukraine.