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Russian Federation Council discusses risk factors due to expiration of law on special status of Donbass

On September 28, the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation held a round table on the topic “The Last Frontier: what will happen in connection with the completion of the Law of Ukraine on the special status of the Donbass on October 18”. The event took place as part of the work of the Committee for Public Support of the Southeast of Ukraine.

Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Yury Vorobyev, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Jabarov, Member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Alexey Pushkov, Member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation Veronika Krasheninnikova, Director of the Center for Political Conjuncture Alexey Chesnakov, Chairman of the DPR People’s Council Denis Pushilin, Vice-Commander of the DPR Defense Ministry’s corps for work with personnel Eduard Basurin, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the LPR Vladislav Deynego, as well as political scientists and media representatives.

According to Yury Vorobyov, chairing the meeting, the consequences of the completion of the law on special status may have a negative impact on the peace settlement process in the Donbass.

“According to this law, a special order of local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions is established for three years from the date of its introduction into operation. The law did not specify the territories to which the law was applied. This led in the future to the disruption of elections to local authorities on December 7, 2015. That is why in 2015 the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law according to which all the substantive paragraphs of the law on special status are effective from the day of the acquisition of powers by local self-government bodies of certain regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions elected in accordance with the constitution of Ukraine. And only after that the law had to come into force, which subsequently led to its stagnation.

But nevertheless, this law formed the basis for the Minsk agreements and the roadmap for their implementation. In this regard, the termination of the law on special status will mean the suspension of work not only in the political direction in the negotiation process, but also will block work on security issues. The conceptual framework for fulfilling the basic condition of the ceasefire will almost disappear,” Yury Vorobyev noted.

The Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council urged those attending the event to work out a common opinion on the steps that should be taken so that the negotiation process on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbass would not fail.

The Chairman of the DPR People’s Council, Permanent Representative of the DPR to the Contact Group at the talks in Minsk, Denis Pushilin, acquainted the participants with the background of the adoption of the law and the subsequent situation around it. The DPR envoy stressed that the special status was the foundation of the political settlement, to which the participants of the Minsk process are trying to come.

“All the parties to the negotiation process agree that the only way for a political solution to the conflict is to grant special status to the Republics. In case if the term of special status expires, the entire process of political settlement will be seriously damaged, and the progress achieved during the Minsk talks will be largely undone.

Unfortunately, the representatives of Ukraine are doing their utmost to sabotage its implementation, and for three years they have been delaying the negotiation process, bringing the situation to the present crisis. We do not see any real positive steps on the part of Ukraine, which is extremely irresponsible on their part in these circumstances. And we’re running out of time. We constantly urge the Ukrainian party to start active work on this issue, but – alas! Thus, all responsibility for the possible consequences of the disruption of the peace process will lie, first of all, on the Kiev authorities,” Denis Pushilin stated.

According to him, representatives of the People’s Republics at the negotiations in Minsk will strive for the law on special status to come into force in full.

“Despite the agreements reached, Kiev’s representatives to the Contact Group shy of from discussing this topic, coming up with more and more excuses. Of course, this cannot be interpreted otherwise but a flagrant violation of the principle of conscientiousness of negotiating. The position we advocate in the negotiations in Minsk is supported by all members of the “Normandy format”, as well as by members of the UN Security Council. All of them approved the plan for a peaceful resolution of the conflict on the basis of granting the special status. Therefore, Kiev must fulfill its obligations undertaken not only before the Republics, but also before the world community.

The termination of the special order of local self-government is an internal problem of Kiev according to the Package of Measures. Proceeding from this position, of course, we will continue seeking to amend the law on a special order with a view to putting it into effect in full. This is an issue that we cannot relinquish, it is the basis and foundation of the Minsk process. Without the special status, without understanding our political prospects, there is no chance to settle the conflict. The lives of thousands of Donbass residents depend on it, and the delay in this process can only lead to a new round of escalation of the conflict, to new victims on both sides,” Denis Pushilin warned.

In turn, Acting Foreign Minister of the LPR Vladislav Deynego noted that the Ukrainian party, when making suggestions, subsequently denies them, arguing that they were unofficially introduced and allegedly represent a private opinion.

“It’s a rather complicated situation. The current special status with its limited in time action, as envisaged in the first stage, presupposed Ukraine’s trustworthiness in the Minsk process and in the work to resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, in this respect, Ukraine has shown its complete inconsistency or a deliberate, planned in advance, sabotaging of this process.

How the situation was initially: on September 5, 2014, there was signed a protocol then voting takes place, and it takes over a month for it to enter into force, which, in principle, already violates the legislation of Ukraine. Nevertheless, as soon as this law came into force on October 17, on October 19, we succeed for the first time to sign an agreement with the Ukrainian party on the withdrawal of heavy weapons. It is not realized, and the signer from the Ukrainian party was fired from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Apparently, he exceeded his authority and to some extent broke the plans of Ukraine. Then we succeeded in signing the same agreement on the withdrawal of heavy weapons after the signing of the Package of Measures in February 2015.

This shows Ukraine’s position regarding the conflict in the Donbass. An imitation of political steps has remained an imitation. And if steps followed tit hat stabilized the armed component, they did not always work. And in a situation where the special status is being pulled out of the political settlement from under the Minsk process, all the developments that have been going on in the sphere of restraining the armed confrontation are lost.

Steps of a political nature and steps to resolve the armed component of the conflict have been intertwined all the time. And now they stand as a key moment in the consideration of the Normandy Four, which is preparing the next proposals for Ukraine and for the Contact Group on how to move forward within the framework of the Minsk process. The meeting is expected in October. If you look at the chronology, for the past several months the Normandy Four has been working quite intensively in this direction.

And suddenly on October 18 this status is gone. The prospects for applying the recommendations that the Normandy Four is working on are practically flat. There are no bases on which you can make an add-on. And this presupposed the alternation of steps in the political and military spheres. How did Ukraine behave in regard to the consideration of the political bases of the settlement? At the first stage, there were some attempts of a dialogue in the political subgroup, some theses were put forward, but then it turned out that this was a private opinion of those who are present there and who are not empowered to express such opinions.

They have even submitted documents which were later withdrawn because it was a private opinion of an expert, and not the official position of Ukraine. At some point, the political subgroup started working to get Ukraine’s position. For about a year and a half the coordinator is trying to get a position from the representatives of Ukraine. They systematically promise and to this day have not submitted a document that would express Ukraine’s intentions. Let it not even be concrete steps, at least a tendency. There’s nothing of this kind. The last 74 meetings of the subgroup on political issues are held without an agenda. All these 74 meetings they are trying to agree on an agenda and by the end of the meeting they do not come to any result,” Vladislav Deynego informed.

The discussion was continued by the director of the Center for Political Conjuncture Alexey Chesnakov.

“One can formulate rather rigidly not only the main Republics’ position, but also all those who analyze this process. If the law on the special status of the Donbass will not be extended, in fact Ukraine will disrupt the Minsk process. That is, the Minsk agreements cannot be fulfilled through the fault of Ukraine.

The special status is the format of the Republics’ future or these territories within Ukraine. No special status – no future. They are not ready to take this future in a different way. People are ready to discuss the format of their joint existence, but they are not ready to discuss any trifles concerning the past, and we must take this into consideration,” Alexey Chesnakov said.

Then the political scientist identified five main points, which he called risk factors.

The first factor is normative. The law on special status is the only normative document in all Ukrainian legislation which fixes the term “special status”. There are no other documents. Ukraine undertook to adopt an amendment to the constitution, which would act on an ongoing basis. It adopted it in the first reading, and then the process is blocked and, most likely, it will not be possible to return it and adopt it in the second reading. And according to this amendment, it is the law on the special status that is basic, and this law is indicated as the basis for the existence of the Republics, certain areas. Accordingly, all other legislation should be based on this amendment. If there is no law, no amendment – there is nothing to talk about.

Then there is the motivation factor. Now there is no motivation to discuss the future. There is none from both sides. Ukraine does not want to discuss this format and believes that it should get consent from the Republic for capitulation. It is clear that the parties that are guarantors of the Minsk process cannot agree with this position. I think that the topic of the law on special status will be raised at the level of the Normandy Four.

The next factor is implementation. Largely, not only the “Steinmeier’s formula” loses its meaning, but also any topic related to step-by-step execution of security and political issues. After all, the meaning of this “step-by-step” method is that any issues related to security are backed with political steps, and they are built on the law on the special status – they are fixed there and smoothly moved to the provisions of the Package of Measures. Special conditions are also recorded there, as well as the status of the language, economic relations with the regions of the Russian Federation, and a special programme that the Ukrainian government would adopt for these territories, and so on.

The following factor is the safety factor. Often one can hear: “let’s first take measures related to the cessation of shellings, and then we will continue discussing.” This very “then” is not very clear, because there was a law on the special status and there were bases for discussion. And it is impossible simply to encourage people to give up fighting without any conditions. They need to be offered some intelligible formats of peaceful life, in which they will not be deprived of political and civil rights. We believe that this is one of the main problems that exists to date. This applies not only to residents of certain regions, but also to all residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Poroshenko recently signed a law on the amnesty of certain people who committed crimes in the territories of these areas, controlled by Ukraine. It turns out that Ukraine is taking some steps that can be perceived as unfriendly and violating certain parity, a balance of power allowing the parties to treat each other trustworthy.

Therefore, we highlight the last factor – the factor of formats’ crisis. In fact, not only the Minsk negotiating format, but all other formats that exist at the expert level, at the level of the Normandy Four, at the level of various kinds of public initiatives, also lose their meaning. Because any humanitarian and expert projects should be based on something. Even a basic conversation with the Ukrainian party is impossible, because there is no base of what to talk about. Postponement of the decision to extend the law on the special status will not only lead to the crisis of the Minsk negotiating process, but in general all the negotiation formats that exist today,” Alexey Chesnakov concluded.

According to Vice-Commander of the Defense Ministry’s corps for work with personnel Eduard Basurin, the Ukrainian Armed Forces constantly violate the “silence regime” during the whole period of the civil conflict in the Donbass.

“If we talk about security, then only in the past 24 hours in Donetsk, three houses were destroyed and one soldier was wounded. Before this, a woman was wounded in the village of Vasiliyevka. This village is noteworthy for the fact that it houses a high-pressure pumping station that feeds ours and the territory under control of Kiev. If it stops working, then there will be about two million people left without water.

The Ukrainian authorities absolutely do not comply with the ceasefire agreement. The disengagement of forces and facilities has never been completed to the end. I am sure that this problem arose because of the fact that there is no penalty for non-compliance with the Minsk agreements. Ukraine openly declares that it will not fulfill them. It comes up with false flags due to which they continue to shoot. At that, the hottest spots are located on the borders of our cities. For example, the western outskirt of Donetsk and two thirds of Gorlovka are in contact with the locations of Ukrainian troops or nationalist battalions that are part of various power structures of Ukraine,” Eduard Basurin reported.

As the member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation Veronika Krasheninnikova noted, the idea of the crisis in Ukraine was based on an international basis and pursued strategic goals aimed primarily against Russia.

“In this situation, three international aspects are clearly visible. First, it is the cessation of the political process and the return to the military direction. Secondly, it is the fixing the impossibility of implementing the Minsk agreements and depriving the foundation of such a political process as the “Normandy format”. Thirdly, the termination of the law on the special status guarantees systemic violations of the rights of Donbass residents, including the right to elect their representatives to various government bodies.

The voiced “Steinmeier’s formula” shows that Germany is still interested in a political settlement of the conflict. Indeed, Germany has no reason to keep a ‘tinder box’ nearby, which is always ready to explode, and the leader of a country that does not always give in to political influence, even from Europe. One must assume that France is also not interested in the resumption of hostilities. However, the interests of the United States differ from the interests of Europe. There is some difference between the interests of the former administration and the current administration of President Trump. It is obvious that Ukraine and the crisis around it is a constant irritant against Russia. In the medium and long term, the goal is to create a military [crisis] against Russia. We understand that arms deliveries have been taking place all these years, we understand that measures have been taken to hide them. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the supply of lethal weapons, and the Pentagon Chief, James Mattis, arrived on Independence Day in Kiev in late August with a package of proposals. We understand that if this package exists, a very long process of discussion has already been passed. We understand that Trump does not have a final word on Ukraine.

We had many illusions about Trump, and we lost a lot of time and a lot of energy because of these misconceptions. Nevertheless, practically all military and political decisions are now being taken at the Pentagon. I recall that earlier James Mattis headed the NATO command for transformation, and in this role he was engaged in bringing Ukraine to the NATO standards. He knows Ukraine very well. Thus, it is planned to use bilateral military agreements for arming Ukraine and creating an atmosphere convenient for provocation,” Veronika Krasheninnikova believes.

According to Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, the law on the special status of the Donbass is not included in the current political agenda of the Kiev regime.

“Apparently, Ukraine will not adopt a new law or extend the validity of the existing law. I have a feeling that it is absolutely pointless to rely on some kind of rationalism of the Kiev authorities. The reason for it is that Kiev has a completely different agenda, and it lies within aggravating the nationalist principle of Ukrainian politics. This we see by the law on education, which confronts Ukraine with Hungary, Romania, partly with Poland and Bulgaria. It is quite obvious that this law will lead to great irritation of the part of the European Union that makes such a big bet on Ukraine. And yet Kiev signs it (the law – Ed.).

This shows us the logic of the Ukrainian state. This seems irrational, but those who now rule Ukraine intend to propose to the West to strengthen its frontline status as a state that is at odds with Russia, which is a kind of indulgence for the nationalist degradation of Ukraine, for its further development along the ultranationalist path. I do not see any other principles in the Ukrainian politics,” Alexey Pushkov said.

He added that the expiration of the law on the special status was leading to the freezing of the conflict in the Donbass.

“Absence of the law – and here all were consolidated – is tantamount to abandoning the Minsk agreements, since this law is a system-forming for the whole complex of agreements. That is, it is a mine for “Minsk” and any prospects for political regulation.

This de-facto leads to freezing the situation. Russia is often blamed on this. In fact, by refusing this law, Kiev is leading the matter to a long freezing of the crisis in the eastern Ukraine. Responsibility for this lies entirely on its shoulders. I think that we should promote this thesis at all international venues: the UN, the OSCE… It is absolutely clear that the West will not be able to respond to this, because the settlement on the basis of the Minsk agreements is impossible without this law,” the politician suggested.

Alexey Pushkov pointed out that Kiev’s actions were not simply due to the silence of the West, they were part of the geopolitical game of the European Union and the United States.

“The West does not tend to influence Ukraine. We see silence on the entire number of issues, we see silence over the non-fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, we see a reaction to the law on education, which is an exceptional episode, because it contradicts the whole logic of the European Union, all its norms, the European Convention on National Minorities – everything on what the modern European political tectonics is built.

Brussels does not feel like influencing Ukraine. It has an indulgence, which is justified by Ukraine’s anti-Russian stance, and there is a full consensus between the EU and the US – to forgive Ukraine such ‘trifles’ for the sake of preserving its general anti-Russian course. I have long been convinced that geopolitics is much more important for European institutions than the values they proclaim. The main value is geopolitical tasks.

In addition, I believe that the rejection of this law destroys the basis for discussing the issue of peacekeepers in Ukraine. The peacekeeping mission in Ukraine is connected with the implementation of the Minsk agreements and is their continuation. It can grow only on the basis of the Minsk agreements. If the Minsk agreements are dropped by Kiev de-facto, then Kiev rejects the basis for resolving the issue of peacekeepers in Ukraine,” Alexey Pushkov stressed.

 

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