Ukrainian ambassador says Putin is mentally ill and must be isolated

The Takeaway
Ukrainian Ambassador to UN Yuriy Sergeyev

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry (L) speaking with Yuriy Sergeyev (R), Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, at the Core Club in New York City on May 14, 2014.

Schuyler Swenson

Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine's Ambassador to the United Nations, is quick to say, "I am not a psychiatrist." But he labels Putin as having a "maniac idea" that makes it very difficult to talk with him and his government.

"On one hand, they want to return to the role of a world power, but they are not a world power because of their economic weakness," he says. "That's why they're threatening the world."

John Hockenberry, host of PRI's The Takeaway, interviewed Ambassador Sergeyev at the Core Club in New York City yesterday evening. Sergeyev urged that world leaders try to predict Putin's next steps and find ways to exert international control over the Russian leader.

"At least isolation for him is painful because he prefers [to see] himself as one of the big leaders in the G7 and G8. He was gently thrown out and he became nervous about that. So this is a kind of preventive step to stop his maniacal ideas [from] developing."

John Hockenberry: Just to clarify, the position of the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations is that Vladimir Putin is a maniac? 

Yuriy Sergeyev: His position, what he's doing, makes us treat him like he has a serious disease. 

Hockenberry: So how would you advise President Barack Obama to confront someone who is, in your view, mentally unstable?

Sergeyev: Accept the sick person as a sick person, and either treat him or do something to isolate him from the normal people. ... He has, in his company, the same people from the same treatment house. He has Sudan, he has Syria — Syria was the first to support the annexation of Crimea. He has Zimbabwe, a big world leader [Robert Mugabe] with the same behavior in Africa. This is [his] surroundings, of people of the same mentality. They are not sharing human values, and that's why they are to be treated as inhuman.

Make preventive steps and stop him through economic sanctions. This has started, but is still not so efficient to stop him totally ... This is a good treatment. Now, [Putin and his colleagues] are looking for a way out of the problems that have appeared. Some of them, they lost their assets in Europe and their families lost the privilege to study in the universities and schools. These [are] small remedies; small medicine could be helpful. 

Hockenberry: Is Ukraine ready to hold national elections in 10 days, and can they be free and fair?

Sergeyev: We have 25 regions, and elections should be in all of them. But according the Constitution and the law of the elections, they should be in no less than 50 percent of the regions. That means if we manage to have a majority of these regions [participating] in elections, [the elections] will be accepted by Europe. The Central Electoral Commission has stated that they are ready in all 23 regions, 100 percent. In two rebelling regions, in Donetsk, they have only, for the time being, 40 percent of prepared polling stations and in Luhansk, they have half of the polling stations prepared. The local governors in Donetsk, they can't organize the election process in one town, Slaviansk, where separatists are strong.

We have 20 candidates, some of them are from that region. It means that people have a right to express their will of who they want. The different bodies organizing the public opinion surveys, what they're bringing to our knowledge [is that] the radicals from the right and from the left, they are not supported.

This is what Russia keeps saying — that 'Look, the right-wing fascists will come.' But the right-wing parties have less than one percent now, so they are not supported, even in the regions where they have majorities in the local councils. If we organize the exit polls, if we have the amount of the international observers who already signed up ... from the OECD countries, 500 to come, we could organize fair and transparent elections.

This interview first appeared on PRI's The Takeaway, a public media show that invites you to be a part of the American conversation.

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