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#Donbass: Will Minsk Accords be ever implemented?

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Last May at the press conference to mark one year since his inauguration President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said that the next meeting of the leaders of the “Normandy four” countries (Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany) to resolve the situation in the breakaway Donbass region will take place after the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Sounds too optimistic, to say nothing about zero progress from the Kiyev side regarding implementation of Minsk accords and last summit of the Normandy four decisions taken in Paris in December 2019, writes Alex Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

French Ambassador to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins recently said: “Our goal is not to hold a summit for its own sake. In our opinion, an important task today is to implement the conclusions that were adopted as a result of the December 2019 Normandy format summit in Paris. Only under this condition can we consider organizing the next new meeting in this format.”

EU comments seem to be in line with the French side stance. According to statements from Brussels,
“Full implementation of the Minsk agreements is the only way to achieve a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Donbas.” The official response of the European Council said: “The European Union continues to assert that it will support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. He has repeatedly made it clear that full implementation of the Minsk agreements is the only way to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.”

Recent comments from Moscow sound even more harsh and unambiguous. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on July 10 that Presidential Administration Deputy Head Dmitry Kozak informed his Western colleagues in the Normandy format that Ukraine rejected the agreements reached at the recent meeting of political advisers to the heads of state of the Normandy four in Berlin last June at a meeting of the Trilateral contact group.

Dmitry Kozak said that after 11 March: ” The constructive position of the representatives of Ukraine has changed quite radically,” and “everything is very bad with the Minsk agreements.”

“Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Minsk agreements on the Donbas will cause a negative reaction not only in Moscow, but also in Germany and France,” said Russian Federation President Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.

In addition, in this case it will be almost impossible to create new conditions and a new basis for the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas.

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“To develop an alternative document, a dialogue with representatives of the self-proclaimed republics will be necessary… And Kiyev completely refuses this dialogue. This creates a vicious circle,” Peskov added.

The press Secretary of the President stressed that Kiyev has not done anything and is not doing anything to implement the Minsk agreements and the Paris agreements in the ‘Normandy format’.
However, Peskov hopes that Kiyev and Donetsk will be able to avoid a repeat of the “hot phase” of the conflict.

Almost all political observers and analysts agree that the latest statements from official Ukrainian persons sound weird and irrelevant.

For example, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said that “Ukraine hopes that Russia will take a constructive and responsible position regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements”.
He warned that any attempts to “twist the agreements in order for the reintegration (of Donbass) on Russian terms are doomed to failure in advance”. Kuleba called on Russia to start implementing Minsk-2 with a full and comprehensive cease-fire in the Donbas.

According to the Minister “to turn the Minsk agreements upside down and start demanding some political reforms in Ukraine, transformation, before implementing all other points, is literally shifting responsibility from a sick head to a healthy one”.

Thus, it becomes clear that Ukrainian diplomacy is trying to pin the blame for the lack of progress in implementing the Minsk agreements solely on the Russian side.

Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and Deputy head of the Kiyev delegation to the Contact group on Donbass Alexey Reznikov on the air of the TV channel “Ukraine 24” expressed the opinion that the Minsk agreements on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas should be “modernized”.

“Our delegation has always said that the Minsk agreements require modernization, revision, and changes. But today we remain supporters of the fact that Minsk accords should be implemented today, because we have agreed on it, although these are political agreements, and not some international legal agreements”, Russian News Agency TASS quotes Reznikov as saying.

He recalled that at the summit of the leaders of the ‘Normandy four’ (Germany, Russia, Ukraine, France) on December 9, 2019 in Paris, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky agreed that the Minsk agreements “remain the only reason to end the war and bring peace to the occupied Donbass”. Reznikov stressed that the Ukrainian delegation is trying to “try to achieve peace thanks to the Minsk agreements”.

At the same time, he said that the implementation of certain points of “Minsk” is unacceptable for Kiev. “At that meeting [in Paris] Zelensky said that the condition, which is recorded, for example, in paragraph 8, that first elections should be held, and the next day should take control of the border between Ukraine and Russia by the Ukrainian government, is unacceptable. First you need to take control of the border, and only after that to hold elections. This is one example. Also, it was explained that no special status of Donbass in the Constitution States could be introduced. The legislation, adopted by the Parliament, about local government in certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions has been done and that’s enough”, Reznikov said. In his opinion, this view of Kiev is supported by Germany and France.

At the same time, Reznikov once again voiced his recent idea that the decision to withdraw from the Minsk process can only be made by the leaders of the Normandy format. “Minsk format, this is a technological, logistics center that fulfills the decisions of the leaders of the Normandy format. This is why all the delegations that are working in Minsk today, are performing technological tasks via videoconference. These are issues of mutual release of detained persons, opening of new entry and exit checkpoints, ceasefire, water supply and much more,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Reznikov once again made accusations against Russia, expressing the opinion that “the Russian Federation does not comply with the Minsk agreements”. The representative of Ukraine explained that he was referring to Russia’s alleged violation of the paragraph on the definition of localities that should be under the control of Kiev at the time of the elections, but are not currently controlled by it.

Some days before Reznikov said that the Minsk agreements are “allegedly no longer relevant, since they do not correspond to the realities in which Ukraine was when [they] were concluded.”

Moreover, there are other statements from Kiev about the prospects for a settlement in the Donbas. They want to expand the Normandy format by connecting America and the United Kingdom. It is clear that this is done to increase the possibilities of pressure on Russia.

Kiev also offers to involve OSCE peacekeepers to control the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

According to many political analysts in Ukraine itself, Kiev is frankly trying to get rid of the Minsk format and turn it into another adventure with unpredictable consequences.

“Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Minsk package of measures will obviously not appeal to Berlin, Paris, or Moscow… It will be extremely difficult to create a new database in the form of a new document,” said Peskov.

It is obvious that today not only Moscow, but also Paris and Berlin are trying to find a way out of the impasse that the Minsk format inevitably leads to. This was also confirmed recently by German foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who confirmed that the negotiations are moving “slowly and not easily”.

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