Denis Pushilin tells about results and prospects of Minsk process

Exactly two years ago, on September 5, 2014, in the capital of Belarus at a meeting of the contact group on conflict resolution in Donbass a protocol on the immediate ceasefire (18:00 of the same day) was signed and  a peace plan of 12 paragraphs was adopted.

The provisions of the document were developed in the Minsk Memorandum dated  September 19, and then were detailed in the Package of measures dated February 12, 2015. February’s peace plan have been approved by the “Normandy Four” (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), it received the support of the UN Security Council, having become binding upon international legal instrument.

However, despite this, the “Minsk” and has not been implemented. In August 2016, 50 people were killed during the fighting only in the DPR, 76 were wounded. The political part of the agreement remained on paper. Donetsk news agency held an interview with Denis Pushilin – the Head of the DPR delegation at the contact group negotiations – about the prospects of the peace process.

– Mr. Pushilin, Minsk agreements turn two years, how would you assess this period?

– Minsk agreements, which for two years had been signed back, served as one starting point for the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, on the one hand, when the full-fledged fighting ended and the terrible time when we have hundreds of civilian casualties, when the morgues in our cities were overcrowded and when all that people could think of is survive until morning. Absolutely no one was protected from the fact that they might not wake up next morning, and that the shell might hit at night. And wherever one may be, there was no safe place in the Donetsk People’s Republic, because the shells hit everywhere in every city, including the center of Donetsk and Makeevka.

On the other hand, this is the starting point from which the Republics managed to establish their statehood, because it was necessary to survive in the conditions of economic, transport, energy and other blockades. Ukraine cut us off from everything, it was one of the pressure elements in order to induce us to give up, go back to the Ukraine, which has probably gone forever since the coup perpetrated in Kiev at the turn of 2013-2014.

Accordingly, we began a long, time-consuming, routine process of building the economy, public institutions, but it is much easier to do it without full-fledged fighting.

– How do you assess this process?

– Now, if we analyze what has happened during this period, our people are concerned about not just how to survive and to wake up in the morning, but are already interested in the fact that the stores would have stock, fashion clothing, they’re concerned about the fact that living conditions, for example, vehicle registration, would change for the better. It cannot but rejoice that the people are puzzled over peaceful issues, but, on the other hand, it makes the entire leadership to work with greater intensity, all branches of government, because that the needs of people are growing. But we are aware that the war is not completely over, because every night there is shelling, it is felt especially in our villages along the contact line.

Minsk agreements cannot be called perfect. “Minsk-1” had to be deciphered, a “road map” had to be formulated, which has been done when the Package of measures was signed in 2015. But we are optimistic, we are working in several respects, Minsk has now become an international platform for us, but we must ensure the lives of our citizens and to raise their level – and the Head (the DPR Head Alexander Zakharchenko – DAN approx.) pays great attention to this.

– Do you have a general disappointment with the Minsk agreements?

– There is no disappointment in the very Minsk agreements, not in the Package of measures, there is disappointment in the position of the Ukrainian side, or rather the absence of a written statement of position in political issues of the negotiation process. Ukraine does not agree completely, but do they offer anything in return of what they are not agreeing with? Written positions are not presented until this day. Coordinator of the subgroup on political affairs Pierre Morel also struggles with this, we practically regularly appeal to the Ukrainian side. We understand, you do not agree, describe where you disagree and what you suggest instead, what is your position? But there is no position, they just disagree.

– Is it possible to say that Ukraine has decided to bury the political part completely?

– Ukraine has decided to delay the process, it is very difficult to say how much, but the representatives of Ukraine spoke about 10 and even 20 years, as the period of such negotiations on other conflicts.

– Don’t you think that for the implementation of the “Minsk-2” it is necessary to wait for the arrival of the new government in Ukraine? Would you say that the current government is able to negotiate?

– I have two kinds of conclusions, because the current Ukrainian authorities are unable to negotiate, but if we consider the alternative to the authorities, which now exists, it can be much worse. Because we know the radical mood among individual groups, the ‘party of war’ as such. Now it is very difficult to judge if it will be better or worse than the other authority.  There may be several shifts of power, and then some sort of constructive dialogue will be made. It is possible that Ukraine will break up before this opportunity to hold constructive talks due to internal strife, and thus we may have to operate by some other means in this case.

– Is a real cease-fire in Donbass possible in the present circumstances? What is required for this?

– On September 1, the contact group held a video conference, and, in general, all the participants expressed the view that it is possible to achieve even a complete cease-fire, but everybody needs to make every effort. And we have positive experience of last year, when also on September 1, a cease-fire, which lasted for a relatively long period, was reached. We used this period to rebuild schools, kindergartens on the demarcation line, to prepare the residential sector for the winter, for people to be provided with the bare essentials.

We have never been supporters of the war, we were forced to defend ourselves. Right now we don’t have to do anything but just to wait, when Ukraine will cease to shoot, and then we will not have the reason to answer them, the reason to keep all such serious divisions along the contact line. Like now, when we fear that Ukraine could go on the offensive, because the accumulation of Ukrainian weapon and personnel, which is currently present according to our information, leaves such a threat, and we have to defend themselves. This means additional costs, because the content of units along the contact line costs certain financial expenses.

– How to achieve comply with the requirements of withdrawal of heavy weapons? For Kiev produces new machines for the army. Just recently the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko gave AFU 150 units. The OSCE mission doesn’t have their numbers. That is, nothing prevents them to take all to stocks the registered weapons and pull up the new one to the front line. What are the solutions the DPR offers in this regard?

– That’s right, nothing prevents them to do so. The steps in this case should be the following: improving the efficiency of the OSCE SMM and JCCC. Only these steps can be done in this case, because our opponents, I think, would mind if we check, where they took arms on the territory under their control. This is spelled out in the Package of measures, there is only to wait, when it will become effective along the contact line.

– Is there any progress in the recovery of the banking system in the DPR and will the international mechanism to facilitate the financial transactions in Donbass be established, as spelled out in the Package of measures?

– Speaking of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian side is completely ignoring its obligations to restore the banking system. Besides, Germany, which promised technical help in this, has held itself aloof here as well. Now everything that Ukraine justifies their actions with and appeals that performs this paragraph is that they have launched two armored Kamaz with ATMs along the contact line on the territory under their control. They believe that this means restoration of the banking system. It’s funny, but what is even more puzzling that this sounds to Europe like an justification that they have fulfilled this paragraph.

We have the domestic banking system. The mechanism of work is built through South Ossetia. South Ossetia has recognized us, it has been recognized by the Russian Federation, and therefore, we have accesses to external financial markets. They are complicated, not very comfortable, but there is such a possibility.

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