October 14, 2015

The “Ukrainian Issue”: from New York to Paris — 2

Oleksiy Volovych

(Part 2)

“The Paris Agreements”

October 2 the diplomatic battles around Ukraine moved from New York to Paris, where the third meeting of Heads of the States of the “Norman Four” took place. Prior to the talks at the Elysee Palace, that lasted nearly five hours, there had been bilateral meetings: P. Poroshenko — F. Hollande and V. Putin — A. Merkel. On the eve of the meeting in order to coordinate position, s P. Poroshenko also spoke at the UN General Assembly with Merkel and F. Hollande. On the bilateral level before the talks in Paris only P. Poroshenko and Putin did not meet.

An important nuance of the talks in Paris was the absence of Donetsk puppets of the Kremlin, i.e., representatives of the self-proclaimed “republics” because they all have the status if inadmissible in the EU. Another detail associated with P. Poroshenko and V. Putin's shaking hands, to which they were allegedly “forced” by Merkel. This handshake caused many controversial comments. Some have stated that it is unacceptable to shake hands with the enemy, while others said it was a diplomatic protocol. As you know, in New York P. Poroshenko left the Session Hall of the UN General Assembly, when V. Putin began to read his speech.

Following the talks, no document was signed, which fact has led to contradictory interpretations of the results

Negotiations of the “Norman Four” were fairly informal, with no clearly defined issues on the agenda. Following the talks, no document was signed, which fact, as we see today, has led to contradictory interpretations of the results of the negotiations by the participants of the meeting in Paris and experts.

The fact that the “Paris Agreements” have not been confirmed document-wise, probably shows their not very high value. Some experts explain the absence of a final document by the fact that the meeting in Paris was intended only to intensify and push or rather to ram through the fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements (“The Set of Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements”), not really caring about what mechanisms and instruments should be involved in order to achieve their implementation.

The “Norman Four” at the talks in Paris focused at the following questions:

  • Removal of weapons caliber less than 100 mm from the boundary line within 41 days, starting from October 3;
  • Holding local elections in the separatist-controlled districts of the Donbas;
  • Ensuring the international observers' to the elections;
  • Adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of the Law on Peculiarities of Local Elections in Some Districts of the Donbas;
  • Ensuring international humanitarian organizations' access to the occupied districts;
  • Withdrawal of foreign (Russian) troops from the occupied territories;
  • Disarmament of armed gang formations in the occupied territories;
  • Amnesty for separatists;
  • Introduction of immunity for candidates for deputies of local councils;
  • Closure of the 400-kilometer section of the Ukrainian-Russian border;
  • Increasing the number of checkpoints and making conditions for work of international organizations easier.

After the talks V. Putin, having not answered journalists' questions, was the first to hastily leave the Elysee Palace. V. Putin did not come up to the Russian media at the airport “Orly” either. P. Poroshenko also left the residence of the French President, but later held a press briefing for Ukrainian media at the Ukrainian Embassy in Paris. At the final Press Conference at the Elysee Palace spoke only F. Hollande and A. Merkel. It is possible that P. Poroshenko, and V. Putin had not been invited to participate in the final Press Conference, in order to avoid a possible public quarrel between them, which would have ruined the formation of a positive image of the “Paris Agreements”.

Analyzing the statements made by the leaders of the “Norman Four”, their assistants and official spokespersons, heads of Foreign Ministries, as well as competent experts and journalists, we can create a picture of the main issues discussed at the Summit in Paris.

 

On Elections in the Occupied Territories

One positive outcome of the negotiations in Paris was the consensus achieved by the leaders of the “Norman Four” about the inadmissibility of “fake elections” in the occupied territories on the 18th of October and on the 1st of November. It seems that the negotiators agreed to a compromise — V. Putin cancels the holding of these elections, and the Ukrainian side agrees to the prolongation of the term of the Minsk Agreements for an indefinite period after 31st December 2015. Ultimately, it's not so bad, and here's why.

Putin wants us to hold the elections as soon as possible because he needs urgent lifting of sanctions

As it was pointed out at the Summit in Paris, the local elections in the occupied territories can only take place in accordance with Ukrainian legislation after the adoption of a special Law on the elections and no later than 90 days after the Law has come into force. Though here a question arises — why 90 days, and not, say, 180 or more? It is important that the timing of the adoption of the Law is not specified, and this provides certain freedom in timing the elections. As I see it, we should not rush with the adoption of this Law. Putin wants us to hold the elections as soon as possible because he needs urgent lifting of sanctions. But we should not pander to Putin's whims, and to hold elections when there appear right conditions for them. Therefore, we should be in no hurry about the elections.

Taking into consideration that two-thirds of the zombified by Moscow propaganda population in the occupied territories, to put it mildly, do not feel great love for Ukraine and half a million of the inhabitants of the Donbas have moved to other regions of Ukraine. This means that even if the elections take place in accordance with Ukrainian law and under international supervision, their results are likely to demonstrate support for the candidates- separatists. Therefore, in our opinion, it is important to ensure that migrants from the Donbas, though not all of them are patriots of Ukraine, have the right to elect and be elected in accordance with the future special Law on the Elections in Some Areas of the Donbas. This Law should help to solve a number of problems:

  • How should the half a million refugees vote?
  • How to prevent separatists, criminal elements and criminals' participation in the elections?
  • How to organize international monitoring of elections?
  • How to hold technically these elections in half ruined cities of the Donbas?
  • How to guarantee security during the elections?

Note: Draft of a special Law on the Peculiarities of the Local Elections in Some Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of the Ukrainian legislation and OSCE's principles is already worked out by the Tripartite Liaison Group in Minsk. It is envisaged that this Law will ensure coverage of the elections by Ukrainian media in these regions, participation of Ukrainian parties in the elections, formation of election commissions through the Ukrainian Central Election Commission and by representatives of Ukrainian parties, the immigrants' being able to vote at the current place of residence, as well as the withdrawal of Russian occupation troops and the disarmament of separatist fighters. At best, the Law will be adopted before the end of 2015, respectively, the elections can be held no earlier than spring 2016.

 

After the Summit of the “Norman Four” in Paris there was a Press Conference, in which participated only the President of France F. Hollande and Chancellor of Germany A.Merkel. According to A. Merkel, Russia and Ukraine's points of view on the way of solving the crisis in the Donbas “have significantly come closer”. In her opinion, the fact that the negotiations in Paris did take place is “a symbol of the fact that we have moved forward”. She also saw a “slight progress in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements” while pointing out that “the issue of Syria is not connected with the Ukrainian issue”.

The French President F. Hollande spoke about the Law on the “amnesty” for separatists, which “should be realized together with the elections”. But the question arises: why “with the elections”? Maybe it would be better to carry out a selective amnesty along with deseparatization and debanditization in the occupied territories, and then to hold elections? I think that Frau Merkel has studied the history of her country well and knows that the first democratic elections to the Bundestag in postwar Western Germany took place August 14, 1949, and the 4 years before them were spent on denazification. In my opinion, we also must first carry out the process of deseparatization and debanditization in the areas of the Donbas that are temporarily not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. By the way, the draft law on deseparatization (on counteracting and preventing separatism and overcoming the consequences of separatist activities in the territory of Ukraine), was adopted in the first reading before July 22, 2014 by the Verkhovna Rada of the previous convocation, but then the Deputies for some reason did not return to its consideration.

Therefore, after the elections, Ukraine will begin a process of returning control over its border, and about when it should finish it — not a word. Maybe in a year or in five years? F. Hollande also said that the elections should take place first, and then returning of the control over Ukraine's border with Russia and withdrawal of foreign armed forces from the Donbas (?!). In general, F. Hollande did not go into details about what mechanism should be used to return Ukraine's control over its border with Russia. Perhaps because he himself has no idea how this could happen? I think that to close “tightly” the 2,295 km-long border with Russia would be very difficult, almost impossible. Even the USA cannot close the border with Mexico.

It is also not clear why in F. Hollande's interpretation the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the Donbas should be carried out only after the elections? Indeed, Point 10 of the Minsk Agreements states that “all foreign (Russian — author) troops, military equipment and mercenaries should be withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine and all illegal groups should be disarmed under the supervision of the OSCE”, but this point does not specify: after or before the elections. According to an experienced Ukrainian diplomat and international legal theorist V. Vasylenko, holding elections in the occupied territory of Donbas before the withdrawal of Russian troops, and before returning of Ukraine's control over its border would be absurd and contradicting the requirements of international and Ukrainian Law.

Holding elections in the occupied territory of Donbas before the withdrawal of Russian troops would be absurd

It is still not clear how exactly and when “the disarmament of all illegal groups” should take place? And it is not clear whether there was a conversation about it at all in the talks at the Elysee Palace? It seems that there was because during his speech in the Verkhovna Rada on the 7th of September, Minister of Foreign Affairs P. Klimkin stated that by all the criteria of international Law, the elections in the territory where foreign troops and armed illegal formations are present are impossible. Obviously, the same was said by President P. Poroshenko at the Summit in Paris. October 5 in an interview to Ukrainian TV channels P. Poroshenko said that foreign troops should be withdrawn from the Ukrainian territory immediately, without reference to the timing of the local elections. But I would like these declarations to be supported by concrete actions, such as introduction of the relevant article into the draft of a special law on elections in some districts of the Donbas which is being prepared by the Tripartite Liaison Group in Minsk. In my opinion, deseparatization period should last as long as needed to clear the Ukrainian Donbas from criminal elements, to conduct amnesty and to disarm illegal groups and to completely close the 400-kilometer long “holes” in the Ukrainian-Russian border. Apart from this, we should, first of all, in parallel renew the destroyed infrastructure, provide the citizens with decent, or at least tolerable living conditions. During this period, in all towns and cities in the area of the ATO, should act temporary civil-military administrations. And only after that, maybe in a year or two, we will be able to hold local elections in some areas of the Donbas.

According to F. Hollande, local elections in the occupied areas of the Donbas “will take place outside the framework of 2015, as the current conditions do not meet the Minsk Agreements”. Indeed, there are less than three months till the end of the year, which is not enough for adoption of a special law on the elections and their organization in such adverse conditions. And it is doubtful that in 2016 these conditions will become more favorable.

It is significant that at the end of the Press Conference President F. Hollande and Chancellor A. Merkel acknowledged that they had no confidence that Russia would fulfill its obligations under the Minsk and Paris Agreements... So, this means that everything that was said at the Press Conference by the leaders of France and Germany, is most likely their wishes, rather than presentation of the agreements reached. Moreover, according to Reuters, at the same Press Conference, A. Merkel said that “Ukraine has the right to expect respect for its territorial integrity, possibly excluding the Crimea, but throughout the rest of the country”. That's it! As the Ukrainian saying goes, “They talked and talked, then sat down and cried”.

Merkel is said to have said this in a different context, which dealt with restoration of Ukrainian borders within the Minsk Agreements that do not relate to the Crimea. But whatever the context, these words of A. Merkel's leave an unpleasant aftertaste. It is a pity that the agency Reuters has not spread Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko's statement of September 4, for three Ukrainian television channels, in which he pointed out that the Ukrainian government intends to return the annexed by Russia Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula after the resumption of control over the temporarily occupied part of the Donbas. I would like Frau Merkel to hear these words. And not only she.

 

The Law “on a Special Status”

By the way, September 16 of last year a law was adopted “On Special Order of the Local Self-Government in Some Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions” (shortly — “On Special Status”). This law is short, includes a total of 9 articles, together with the final provisions. But if this Law is introduced in its present form, the occupied areas of the Donbas will turn into a separate autonomous quasi-state codenamed “Luhandon” hostile to Ukraine and with extremely broad powers. In fact, this will be a state within a state with its own legislation, Prosecutor's Office, “units of people's militia”, in which will serve as the former “militants”, with the tasks assigned to them to protect public order, and at the same time to catch “Ukrops” (“dills” — nickname of Ukrainian patriots).

The occupied areas of the Donbas will turn into a separate autonomous quasi-state

According to another shameful and humiliating for the Ukrainians law (Kolesnichenko-Kivalov's) “On the Principles of the State Language Policy” (which was flagitiously pressed through by parliamentary majority July 3, 2012, in violation of the Constitution, rules and regulations and procedures for considering), Ukraine undertakes to do everything to facilitate the free use and support of the Russian language in the territory of the “Lugandon”, while the Ukrainian language is not mentioned at all.

In accordance with the Law “On a Special Status” provides for “cross-border cooperation with administrative-territorial units of the Russian Federation on the basis of agreements on border cooperation”. Instead of orders and decrees, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and other central executive bodies must also conclude with the relevant local authorities of the “Luhandon” agreements on its economic, social and cultural development. The Law on the State Budget of Ukraine shall provide for annual expenditure on state support for social and economic development of the “Luhandon”. Alternate laughter and tears...

As we remember, August 31 it caused heated debate in the Session Hall of the Verkhovna Rada during the discussion of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine. I do not think that that Law has a right to exist in its current form. Not to mention the fact that the Law provides for the holding of local elections in the Donbas November 9, 2014. In my opinion, before the second vote (not secret!) in December this year on amendments to the Constitution, the People's Deputies must first amend the Law “On a Special Status” to make it look less shameful and humiliating for the Ukrainians. If this is not done, then I doubt very much that in the Session Hall of the Verkhovna Rada there will be 300 votes for amendments to the Constitution.

 

V. Putin's Demands

Some witnesses say that when Putin was leaving the Elysee Palace, he was pale and furious. This is not surprising, considering that in Paris he was unable to succeed. Firstly, Putin wanted the sanctions to be if not lifted then at least mitigated.

He sought to persuade the partners in the “Norman format” that the sanctions have nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements because, Russia acts only as an intermediary, and is not responsible for the situation in the Donbas. But F. Hollande and A. Merkel were relentless: easing or lifting of sanctions is possible only after the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. V. Putin also insisted on adoption of a new amnesty law, under which the militants of the “Luhandon” would be pardoned before the elections in the Donbas. But P. Poroshenko did not agree to it.

Strangely, during the talks in Paris, the Russian party kept putting forward the requirements, which had nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements. In particular, the Russians want to move or postpone the implementation of the Agreement on Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU. Besides, the Russian delegation demanded from Ukraine to move or postpone the implementation of the Association Agreement, which should start working January 1, 2016. However, these demands of the Russian side were also completely rejected by the three participants of the meeting.

 

Conducting Amnesty

Point 5 of the Minsk Agreements provides for “ensuring pardons and amnesties by entering into force of the law prohibiting prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine”. A blurred and uncertain point not mentioning a selective amnesty, punishment of those who committed terrible crimes, and in no way can be subject to amnesty.

October 6 the leader of the faction “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” in the Parliament Yu. Lutsenko said that the amnesty law cannot be applied to the militants implicated in the commission of murders and tortures. According to him, such terrorists as “Motorola”, “Givi” and the like (and there are hundreds and thousands), “cannot take part in elections and in peace life in the Donbas”. Yu. Lutsenko also said that the leaders of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”, who organized the state rebellion and ordered to shoot Ukrainian citizens, not only cannot participate in the elections, but should be brought before a special court.

The amnesty of the involved in the conflict in the Donbas can be held according to the “Croatian scenario”

As we know, the Verkhovna Rada by 287 votes in the secret voting, September 16, 2014 adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Prevention of Prosecution and Punishment of Persons-Participants of the Events in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions”, which is informally called “Amnesty Law”. The key provision of this law is that the amnesty would not be applied to those who committed serious crimes. But this law since its adoption causes a lot of comments from lawyers and politicians. For example, it does not specify events, for participation in which people will be amnestied. The law also provides for collective responsibility, although the criminal law of foreign countries no longer provides such a thing, and operates on a concept of individual responsibility. The list of crimes for which responsibility is retained, does not include violation of the rules of war, using mercenaries, and so on. The law does not provide amnesty for foreign mercenaries who took part in terrorist activities in the territory of Ukraine. The law does not explain how the authorities will define the looters, murderers, terrorists and tyrants? Therefore, this law cannot be considered perfect. It was adopted more than a year ago and since then the situation has largely changed. Therefore, it is possible that People's Deputies still have time until the New Year to make certain changes and amendments.

The First Deputy Chairman of the faction “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko”, I. Kononenko admits that the amnesty of the involved in the conflict in the Donbas can be held according to the “Croatian scenario”, in which the process of amnesty in Croatia took more than 10 years. According to I. Kononenko, “every person, every criminal, every case will be considered by the court, and after that the court will make a decision on each individual person”. Recently, the President P. Poroshenko has pointed out that “there will be no 100% amnesty”.

 

Separatists Are Panicking

The leaders of the separatists and mercenaries are increasingly coming to realize that Moscow has to abandon plans for further escalation of the conflict in the Donbas and is leaving them to their fate. As the separatists and mercenaries realize that the Ukrainian government, as a result of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, can resume its presence in the temporarily occupied territory of the Donbas, they begin to panic and fear that they will have to answer for their crimes. The panic is fueled by rumors about strengthening by the border troops of the FSB of the Russian Federation's state border with Ukraine in areas bordering the occupied areas, to prevent Russian mercenaries and local “militias”' transfer to the territory of the Russian Federation. Today, the separatists and mercenaries understand that they are trapped: on the one side is the Ukrainian Army, and on the other — the Russian one, not letting them to Russia. Today one of the few options for them to avoid punishment is either to be eliminated by Russian secret services, or to give consent to participate in the Syrian war. Because apart from fighting, they cannot and do not want to do anything else. It is possible that at the time of the amnesty the most odious and bloodthirsty militants and terrorists will run away from the Donbas. And it would be very good.

The Kremlin has really failed in the implementation of its adventure to create a “Novorossia” and has switched to creation of “Novosyria”

”Russian mercenaries who fought in the Donbas, are going to earn great money in Syria, where they form their own battalions,” — said the former “Minister of Defense” of the so-called “DPR” I. Strelkov (Girkin). According to him, while in the Donbas Russian mercenaries and volunteers are being paid 120 thousand rubles per month, in Syria they will be getting up to 250 thousand for each month of the war. Russian political scientist and public figure A. Piontkovsky called the RF's interference in the Syrian conflict “a completely ill-conceived from the military and political point of view operation and a hysterical reaction to the defeat in Ukraine”.

According to some reports, the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff has recently ordered the withdrawal from the Donbas of some units of Russian regular troops and individual most capable formations of Russian mercenaries in order to send them to Syria. At the moment we can see departure of Russian advisers from among the officers of the Armed Forces personnel that served in the Staffs of the 1st and 2nd “Army Corps” of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. The general command of the militants and armed formations of the RF in the “DPR” was carried out by the RF Army Generals A. Zavizyon and A. Hurulyov.

According to the Vice-President of the Atlantic Council Damon Wilson, from the beginning of hostilities, in Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been killed 7 to 12 thousand military servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Russian federation. If this is true, the Kremlin has really failed in the implementation of its adventure to create a “Novorossia” (“New Russia”) and has switched to creation of “Novosyria” (“New Syria”). But we must not lower our guard but must continue strengthening the combat capability of our Armed Forces.

 

The OSCE's New Role in the Donbas

The leaders of the “Norman Four” agreed that the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine should have an access to all the occupied area of the Donbas, as well as to the Ukrainian-Russian border, where separatists did not let the Mission. Actually, the negotiating parties did agree on the Missions free access and moving about in the occupied territories of the Donbas before, but to no result.

There must also be guaranteed an unhindered access to all parts of the occupied territories for the OSCE's drones, whose work is often blocked by the use of military “beavers”. Recently, an agreement has been reached to expand the number of the OSCE Mission and to extend its mandate.

Note: As of the end of January 2015, as part of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE in Ukraine there worked 590 people. The SMM consisted of 372 international observers, 168 citizens of Ukraine and other international personnel. Chairman of the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE in Ukraine from April 2, 2014 was appointed Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan (Turkey). Among the 372 international observers, the Mission has 40 representatives from the United States, 22 — from Russia, 22 — from the United Kingdom, 20 — from Hungary, 18 — from Finland, 17 — from Italy 15 — from Germany, 14 — from the Czech Republic, 14 — from Romania, 13 — from Austria, 13 — from Poland, 13 — from Denmark, 12 — from Sweden and 11 — from Switzerland. Apart from these, the SMM of the OSCE in Ukraine includes citizens of 27 other countries. In Donetsk and Luhansk regions there are 234 members of the OSCE Mission out of the 372 observers. The rest are in other cities of Ukraine. In the nearest future the number of the Mission should be increased up to 900 people. The budget of the OSCE Mission in Ukraine is formed by contributions from member countries and makes 6 million US dollars per month. The Ukrainian side from time to time expresses concern that some representatives of the OSCE Monitoring Mission in the Donbas disclose information on the deployment of Ukrainian troops.

Under the auspices of the OSCE, with the assistance of Germany and France has to begin humanitarian demining in the area of the ATO. From now on the new role of the OSCE will include not just monitoring, but also control and police functions in the occupied part of the Donbas, at least for the duration of the organization and conduct of local elections there. Of course, it would be desirable for the OSCE to fulfill these functions during the period of deseparatization, but, unfortunately, this has not been mentioned by our highrank authorities, let alone by our European partners.

September 9 this year, the Head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Tana de Zulueta said that the Mission will not monitor the elections in the territory of the self-proclaimed “DPR” and “LPR”, as the Mission may accept the invitation to act as an observer on elections only from states which are members of the OSCE. In my opinion, a strange explanation, and it seems to satisfy Moscow. The elections must be held by Ukraine according to its legislation on its temporarily occupied lands. Therefore, observers will be invited by Ukraine and not by unrecognized “DPR” and “LPR”, which tomorrow will disappear from the political map of the world. Thus, we have another problem in cooperation with the OSCE. This problem should be discussed during the upcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers and leaders of the “Norman Four”.

At the summit in Paris, P. Poroshenko also demanded to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid to the occupied part of the Donbas with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and to stop Russia's violation of international and Ukrainian standards with bringing its “humanitarian convoys” through the uncontrolled section of the border. P. Poroshenko asked for the Red Cross' participation to release the illegally detained in the occupied territories Ukrainian hostages and prisoners of war.

 

Instead of Conclusions

Neither in Minsk nor in Paris at the end of the meetings of the “Norman Four” we have received a full legal agreement, but have only agreements which despite their having been written at the February Summit in Minsk, did not escape twisting and ambiguous interpretation by the participants, especially by separatists. In our view, it would be wise to offer our partners in the “Norman Format” to clarify, specify or even correct some provisions in the Minsk Agreements which already do not quite meet the real, ever-changing situation in the Donbas. And this could be done during the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the “Norman Four” at the beginning of November. A meeting of the leaders of these countries can also take place before the end of the year. Moreover, technical problems can always be discussed on the phone.

In cases where points of the Minsk Agreements are not clear, or contradict international Law, Ukraine must be guided by international Law and not by arbitrary and contradictory interpretation of it by representatives of different parties involved in the implementation of the imposed upon us Minsk Agreements, which for a long time had not been implemented by Russia and its puppets in the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. Instead of implementation of the Minks Agreements, from February to August of this year, military operations were conducted, during which thousands of our citizens, both civilian and military, were killed.

If the fighting had stopped back in February, perhaps now we would have come up to the elections in the occupied territories after deseparatization and debanditization. But how can we today organize elections for bandits and criminals? And why do we have to comply with the “Minsk Agreements” on elections in the occupied territories, which violate the sovereignty of our country? Why should we harm our national interests and do what we are asked by Monsieur Hollande, Frau Merkel and Gaspadin Putin?

Conflict in the Donbas is no civil war, but is an element of Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine

The President of France F. Hollande and the German Chancellor A. Merkel are always talking about immediate elections in the occupied territories of the Donbas, based on classical liberal ideas that democratic elections are the best way to resolve any conflict. However, this recipe is not quite right for the conflict in the Donbas, because there is no civil war there, but there is an element of Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine. Besides, the main problem of settlement of the conflict lies in the fact that the separatists, supported by Moscow, do not want a real integration with the whole Ukraine but prefer to be Russia's enclave in the territory of Ukraine, at the expense of Ukraine's socio-economic and financial resources.

It seems that we have become hostages of our loyalty and devotion to the cause of honest implementation of the Minsk Agreements. It is not easy for A. Merkel and F. Hollande to put pressure on Putin, because he is the head of a major regional nuclear state and considers himself not party to the conflict, but an intermediary between the “Kiev power” and separatists. They decided that it is handier to press on P. Poroshenko. It seems that our European partners are working to resolve the conflict in the Donbas at any cost, even at the expense of Ukraine. Shouldn't we listen to the words of the President of Poland Andrzej Duda, who has expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that A. Merkel and F. Hollande “negotiate (to resolve the crisis in the Donbas) without the consent of the European Union, which allows Russia to split the ranks of the European Union”.

Of course, we have to fulfill the Minsk and Paris Agreements as long as possible. But we cannot exclude the situation where those Agreements can exhaust themselves or come to a standstill due to the destructive policies of the Kremlin. In this case we will be forced to look for other alternative formats of the negotiation process to replace the “Norman Format”. However, the choice is not large. It might be a “Geneva Format” or fulfillment by guarantor countries (USA, Great Britain, China and France) of their obligations under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. But at least today it seems that alternative formats of negotiations will be difficult or almost impossible to implement.

Thus, October 9, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, in her speech before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the United States said that if the Minsk Agreements are not realized, their alternative “will be bleak”: at best, a frozen conflict in which Donbas becomes an unrecognized gray zone for the foreseeable future; at worst, a return to the war. “Implementation of the Minsk Agreements remains a goal worth fighting for,” said V. Nuland. According to her, “along with France and Germany, America will continue pushing Russia and its proxis to fulfill their commitments”. At this, the Assistant Secretary of State stressed that the “Crimea sanctions remain in place so long as the Kremlin imposes its will on that piece of Ukrainian land”. The results of the Paris Agreements are estimated by Ukrainian politicians and experts not just ambiguously, but often diametrically oppositely — from extremely negative assessment to full euphoria.

To some extent the Ukrainian political and expert circles are divided in their assessments of the Paris Agreements: some consider these Agreements the road to peace, others see them as a betrayal. Some radical political forces speculate on this. Thus, the leader of the “RPL” O. Lyashko has become the main critic of the Minsk and Paris Agreements, in his speeches appealing mostly to emotions rather than to reason of Ukrainian patriots.

It seems that Mr. Lyashko has not heard the above mentioned V. Nuland's words. Perhaps the hype in Ukrainian politics around the Minsk Agreements is also because the explanatory work of the Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is insufficient. And if such explanations do appear, they are not always clear even to specialists.

The Ukrainian expert community has also moderate specialists who objectively, without undue politicization, point out both positive and negative aspects of the Agreements reached in Paris. Moderate political analysts believe that Ukraine's participation in the third summit of the “Norman Four” in Paris “is neither defeat nor victory” and in front, we have a lot of joint work to defend our national interests. Personally I prefer such estimates. We must increase positives and correct negatives in both Minsk and Paris Agreements.

As it has become known, on the eve of the meeting of the “Norman Four” in Paris, the leaders of the “DPR” and “LPR” had been instructed in the Kremlin. On October 8 in a widely publicized video the leader of the “LPR” I. Plotnytskyi babbled this out. The main point of the Kremlin's instruction is as follows: faithful implementation by the “Kiev government” of the Minsk Agreements will provoke internal confrontation in Ukraine, bringing this government to resign, which will contribute to further destabilization of the situation in Ukraine and the expansion of the occupied territories in the Donbas.

 

The implementation of the Minsk Agreements could take years... It will be a war of nerves, endurance and minds

Therefore, we must be prepared for the fact that the implementation of the Minsk Agreements could take years. But at this, the sanctions against Russia will continue or may even be intensified. It will be a war of nerves, endurance and minds. We must be prepared for the fact that the Kremlin, relying on the fifth column, will try to intensify destabilization of the situation in Ukraine and to cause a quarrel between leading Ukrainian political forces. So, as always, our strength is in unity. Therefore, those Ukrainian political forces that urge to cancel the Minsk Agreements and the “Norman Format” of negotiations are actually playing on the side of the Kremlin.

Some of our politicians and “people's” MPs should stop hysteria and populism, not to squabble among themselves, but use their minds and think how we all together can save Ukraine, and prevent creation of cancer in Donbas — “Lugandon". Of course, the Ukrainian public should monitor every step of the authorities in implementation of the Minsk Agreements and demand regular reports on the results of the implementation. The authorities should refrain from implementing those provisions of the Minsk Agreements or recommendations of our partners in the “Norman Four”, which could harm our national interests.

 

Together we will win!