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On implementation of the agreements reached at the Paris summit of the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine in December 2019
On December 9, 2019 the “Normandy format” summit took place in Paris after a three-year suspension. The leaders of France, Germany and Russia had fruitful discussions with the President of Ukraine V.Zelensky, which resulted in the common agreed conclusions that included a number of specific steps necessary to advance the settlement of conflict in Donbass.
Twelve months later an analysis of the implementation of the instructions agreed by the leaders demonstrates a truly depressing picture, mainly due to the Ukrainian Government’s unconstructive position. Today only two of the steps outlined in Paris could be partially considered as accomplished: the exchange of conflict-related detainees (December 29, 2019 and April 16, 2020) and a ceasefire (effective since July 27, 2020).
At the same time, despite a significant reduction in the number of exchanges of fire in Donbass since July 27, 2020 ceasefire violations continue to be reported up until this day. Ukrainian arms transfers, including transfers of heavy military hardware, continue to take place near the line of contact. The Ukrainian armed forces have generally been using railway stations for logistic purposes and hampering efforts to detect arms transfers.
Fulfillment of the rest of the Paris summit decisions has been virtually frozen by the Ukrainian side, which shows little enthusiasm in follow-up of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
The scheduled simultaneous opening of the Zolotoye and Schastye crossing points on the contact line on November 10, 2020 was disregarded by Kiev. In accordance with the parameters coordinated between Ukraine and Lugansk, the Schastye crossing point was to be used exclusively by vehicles, including humanitarian convoys. However, Kiev abandoned the agreement right before the opening of this crossing point, instead making it acceptable only for pedestrians although it knew that Lugansk was not prepared to use the crossing point in this format.
Kiev also has failed to respond to numerous calls for clarifying the details of the agreed bus crossing at Zolotoye. There is a further three kilometers stretch of the neutral zone to cover. By refusing to talk about the details of the crossing point for busses and to ensure appropriate conditions there, especially in light of the approaching winter, Kiev has demonstrated its disregard for its citizens, most of whom are elderly people with health problems.
Despite the need to adopt permanent legislation on the special status of Donbass – as stipulated in the Package of Measures – Ukraine has failed to implement the “Steinmeier formula” in its legislation. Instead, Kiev continues to renew the unacceptable law “On interim local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions” each year after its expiration.
On October, 25 the regular local elections were held in Ukraine in accordance with the Verkhovnaya Rada resolution of the July, 15 (no. 795-XI), which excluded Donbas from the electoral processes and contravened the provisions of paragraphs 4, 9, 11 and 12 of the Package of Measures. Work on the political, socio-economic and humanitarian aspects in the settlement of the conflict in Donbass through the framework of the Minsk Contact Group had basically been blocked by the adoption of this legal act by the Ukrainian Parliament.
The state of the negotiation in the Minsk Contact Group likewise is not encouraging, because the representatives of the Ukrainian authorities avoid speaking with their counterparts of Donetsk and Lugansk. In June 2020, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. D.Kuleba, stated: “Kyiv will never enter into direct dialogue with the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.” In early July 2020, he further pointed out that the demand for direct dialogue with the authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk was “an issue that is blocking everything”. The changes at the end of July in the Ukrainian negotiation team headed by Leonid Kravchuk in the Minsk Contact Group couldn’t break the deadlock.
This position is inconsistent with what was prescribed in the Package of Measures which explicitly called for dialogue between the Ukrainian Government and the representatives of certain areas of Donbass. Attempts had been made by Kiev to replace the representatives of Donbass, who actually live in the region, at the Minsk Contact Group with more amenable “virtual” figures, including some people who have not been living in Donbass for a long time, couldn’t serve as a substitute for dialogue with the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The Ukrainian Government also rejects an amnesty for those involved in the events in Donbass, provided for in paragraph 5 of the Package of Measures, proposing instead a vague concept of some kind of “transitional justice” – the latest idea of Deputy Prime Minister O.Reznikov. The unwillingness of the Ukrainian Government to offer amnesty is also evidenced by the refusal to comply with its own obligations to carry out “legal clearance”, that is to drop criminal charges against Donbass residents who were handed over to the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk as part of the reciprocal release of detainees.
In violation of paragraph 8 of the Package of Measures, the Ukrainian authorities are continuing the inhumane socio-economic and transport blockade of Donbass.
The reason for such an insignificant progress is an obvious lack of political will on Kiev’s side to implement the Package of Measures. Moreover, instead of working actively and productively on a settlement of the conflict in Donbass through dialogue in the Minsk Contact Group, the Ukrainian Government is criticizing the Minsk Agreements and trying to belittle the Contact Group’s significance.
For instance, on June 12, 2020 the Ukrainian vice-prime-minister A.Reznikov called the Minsk Agreements “null and void” as they “expired” in 2015. On October 19, 2020 in an interview to the Ukrainian media outlet Mirror of the Week, he also asserted that “Minsk is not a platform upon which peace can be built”. As for the Contact Group, that was in his words no more than “a banal logistic platform for consultations”. On October 6, 2020 the President V.Zelensky in his interview to “Politico” explained that he was not satisfied with the format of the Minsk Process, which he referred to as “a necessity caused by warfare”. The Ukrainian Government’s negotiators continue to insist on a so-called “reformatting”, “clarification of content” and, ultimately, simply a rewriting of the provisions of the Package of Measures.
The Russian side continues to urge Ukraine’s leadership to rule out the logic of war and to act in the interests of peace and civil accord with a view to achieving swift implementation of the Package of Measures on the basis of direct and meaningful dialogue between the Ukrainian Government and the authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ukraine