The Chairman of the DPR People’s Council, the Permanent Plenipotentiary Representative of the DPR in the Contact group’s negotiations in Minsk Denis Pushilin assessed a dialogue with Kiev within the framework of the Minsk agreements in exclusive commentary to the Donetsk News Agency. Three years ago, on February 12, 2015, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany singed a declaration to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements, adopted by the Contact Group on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, in the capital of Belarus.
I often have to answer a question about the desirability of continuing the dialogue with Ukraine in the framework of the Minsk negotiations. The subject is quite intense, since it has not been possible to predict the final outcome of the negotiations or to determine a specific time-frame for their completion, given the confidence in the Republic’s correct course.
There are several reasons for this and some of which are not quite obvious. In addition, the format of the negotiations imposes known restrictions on the public discussion of a number of very important details, which confuses the situation even more, forming a part of society opinion about the futility of efforts made by us in this area.
I believe that the third anniversary of the conclusion of the second Minsk agreement is a good reason to try to make its meaning perfectly plain, to recall the main stages of the Minsk process, taking into account lessons learned and making preliminary conclusions.
The history of human civilization is a long series of wars and brief truces. I was informed that about 30 million people had been victims of various kinds of armed conflicts since the end of the Second World War. Surprisingly, the period of “absolute” peace lasted just one month. Although these figures are not directly related to our pressing problems, they, nevertheless, provide the key to understanding fundamental patterns that determine the course of processes in which we participate.
In my opinion, the situation prevailing in Ukraine is neither unique nor hopeless, since mankind, having accumulated a colossal reserve of means of warfare, has created an equally impressive arsenal of ways of its peaceful settlement.
As a rule, conflicting parties sit down at the negotiating table, when neither of them is sure that they will be able to win the war without paying an excessive price. It is very interesting that the signing of the Minsk protocol* was preceded by the failure of the AFU’s offensive in August, which culminated in the destruction of the Ukrainian forces near IIlovaisk. As is known, the so-called peace plan of the President of Ukraine Poroshenko, which was limited to paragraphs on disarming rebels with partial amnesty and limited decentralization of power, received a number of significant additions made by the Russian party. It was the last circumstance that determined the nature of the document as a peace treaty, embodying not only bilateral obligations to the immediate cessation of the use of weapons by Ukraine and the Republics, the exchange of prisoners on “all for all” basis, but also the obligation of Ukraine to decentralize power by adopting a specific law.
Was the conclusion of this agreement consistent with our objectives? I guess so. Our decision was justified and took the current military and political situation into account. The real situation in the light of all difficulties and issues, about which you will not hear in the comments of neutral observers.
Did the agreement satisfy the interests of Kiev? I think it did not, because the implementation of the political component of the Minsk protocol actually laid the foundation of the federalization or even confederalization of Ukraine. The development of this scenario was unlikely to be a part of the Ukrainian leadership’s plans.
Any significant breakthrough in the political component of the negotiations is not expected any time soon since the construction of a totalitarian form of public administration based on the idea of Ukrainian nationalism has been well under way in Ukraine.
The mechanism of practical implementation of the agreements reached between the parties in the military sphere was enshrined in a memorandum signed by the participants of the negotiations that took place on September 19, 2014. The document contained a number of restrictions on engaging in offensive activities and carrying out military flights by the parties, withdrawal of heavy weapons, the creation of a security zone with a width not less than 30 kilometres, as well as the deployment of the OSCE observation mission.
The necessary conditions for the implementation of the plan for a peaceful resolution of the conflict have been created with the opening of the Joint Centre for Monitoring and Coordination (at the end of September 2014).
I believe it is useful to restate that the withdrawal of heavy weapons began only in December 2014 and this process was preceded by the resumption of shelling of Donetsk, intensification of fighting in the airport area, as well as the elimination of the AFU’s breakthrough attempt by our troops at several sites of the contact line.
The further development of events fully confirmed the official Kiev’s desire to take a forceful revenge, as well as the lack of intention (read: opportunities) to meet the commitments made with regard to the implementation of political changes. In other words, the Ukrainian leadership decided to up the stakes in early 2015, planning to conclude a more favourable agreement. As it turned out that this plan fell short of expectation and the encirclement of the AFU’s forces in Debaltsevo finally deprived the President of Ukraine of the freedom of political manoeuvre, forcing him to the sign the Package of Measures for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
without getting into specifics, I note that the second Minsk agreement does not contain conceptual differences from the protocol and the memorandum, which underlie it, but it is a more clearly structured document that defines the algorithm of de-escalation of the conflict, establishes not only an exhaustive list of Ukraine’s obligations in the military, political, socio-economic and humanitarian spheres, but also documents the procedure of their fulfilment. On February 17, 2015, the UN Security Council approved the Package of Measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements by its resolution № 2202 and called for all parties to ensure its full implementation. The experience of implementing of the previous peace agreement by the parties was taken into account, which caused changes in the organization of the Contact Group. Thus, four branch subgroups were created and it gave an opportunity to intensify activity on each of the above-mentioned directions by involving specialized specialists and increase of processing time of questions.
Our dialogue with Ukraine has not been easy. It is important to understand that the lack of progress in the political sphere significantly limits the likelihood of achieving a compromise in other areas, narrowing the field of discussion to certain issues that will not be crucial for the parties. “Minsk” continues to be unprofitable for the official Kiev, as it forces it to suffer reputational losses and look as a non-negotiable party in front of the world community. However, I will not risk overestimating the significance of the last fact because I do not have illusions about the true goals of the Ukrainian leadership and its political independence. The current position of the Ukrainian side, in many respects, reminds a player who has a zugzwang and demands not only to start a chess game anew, but to change its rules and opponent at the same.
We hardly expect a significant breakthrough in the negotiations with the Ukrainian authorities in the current situation and it is necessary to take into account several circumstances.
The first one. The Minsk process owes its origin to the “Normandy format”, which was and remains to be conditional. In addition, the basic documents of “Minsk” were approved by the UN Security Council. In other words, by participating in the negotiations, we adhere to rules established by the world community and act in accordance with a peace plan approved by the body responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Within this framework, “Minsk-2” presents us a solution to the issue that has no alternatives.
The second one. “Minsk” remains to be the only official platform for us, where we are able to engage in direct dialogue not only with the European Union, but also with the rest of the world, including the allies of the current Ukrainian government. In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that Ukraine adopted specific commitments, in the implementation of which it is, however, not interested. Judge for yourselves: a constitutional reform is actually rolled back, the law “On special order of local self-government”** was not adopted, the implementation of paragraph 8 of the Package of Measures on the full restoration of Ukraine socio-economic ties, is utopian.
The third one. The world is gradually changing its attitude towards the Republic and the situation in Ukraine as a whole. There are reasons to believe that the “Ukrainian issue” will lose its position on the world political agenda. In this regard, it is hoped that common sense in the Ukrainian leadership will prevail over the desire to make the problem actual through carrying out of another military provocation.
It should also be remembered that the interests of the current Ukrainian government and the people of Ukraine do not coincide. Following the course on the economic blockade and the external isolation of the uncontrollable territories, as well as evading the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the official Kiev actually predetermined the nature of our actions towards ensuring our own security and economic self-reliance. Thus, integration processes with the Russian Federation are under way and gain momentum, and their results have already been noticed not only by our allies.
In a sense, it can be said that the Donetsk People’s Republic unilaterally proceeded to implement the provisions of article 8 of the aforementioned law of Ukraine “On a special order of local self-government in certain area of Donetsk and Lugansk regions” that includes the development of cross-border cooperation aimed at expanding and deepening good-neighbourly relations with the administrative-territorial units of the Russian Federation.
Seriously speaking, I suppose Kiev will face difficult times, because debt comes due. This fact is equally important for us, because Ukraine will remain our neighbour in any development of the situation.
With regard to the negotiations we hope that the dialogue with the official Kiev will allow, at least, preserving the relative calm along the line of contact and continuing our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere. Apart from that, the ball remains in the opponent’s court, which seems to be in no hurry to play with it.
Denis Pushilin, the Chairman of the DPR People’s Council, the permanent plenipotentiary representative of the DPR in the Contact group at negotiations in Minsk