August 7, 2015

The Kremlin's ”Viennese Dances” around Ukraine

”Borysfen Intel”'s experts have analyzed the Kremlin's destructive activity on the deconsolidation of the world and European communities concerning Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Lately, Moscow has demonstrated “consistent” obstructionist position at the UN on the Ukrainian question, and has formed under the auspices of the SCO and BRICS a pool of “friendly” and “neutral” countries that are able to at least partially compensate for Russia's losses from the sanctions. According to our analysts, today Moscow plans to achieve “progress” in promoting its interests in the OSCE, “reasonably” hoping for some “favorable” for Russian interests trends and this international organization's concerns.

Today we can say that virtually the OSCE continues to play a leading role in stabilizing the situation in the eastern regions of our state. The OSCE supports Ukraine in key issues such as the free access of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE to all areas controlled by the “DPR”/“LPR” (monitoring of withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of the conflict as well as of the part of the border between Ukraine and Russia), release of prisoners according to the principle “all for all” and preparing for local elections in the Donbas with the OSCE Mission's unimpeded access to all organizational aspects.

Besides, the majority of the OSCE member countries publicly express support for the official Kyiv in the conflict in the East of our country, pointing out the impermissibility of the presence of a significant number of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border and accuse Russia of openly sabotaging the work of the Tripartite Liaison Group (TLG) and its working subgroups, which undermines the international community's diplomatic efforts for a peaceful settlement of the crisis over Ukraine.

M. SajdikAt the same time, the Russian Federation's representatives to the OSCE do not hide their being happy with the latest staff changes in the Organization, in particular the replacement of the Special Representative of Head of the OSCE in Ukraine, H. Tagliavini with M. Sajdik, emphasizing that now it will be Russia who will have an advantage in the influence on the Special Representative of the OSCE and coordinators of subgroups, unlike the situation with H. Tagliavini, when Ukraine had these advantages (the latter makes the Ukrainian side doubt).

The Russian side is also looking forward to the appointment in the nearest future to the post of a new Deputy Head of the OSCE Secretariat — the Director of the Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC), representative of Slovakia M. Pesko (currently holding the position of the Director of the Office of the OSCE Secretary General L. Zannier). As believed by some diplomats accredited to Vienna, M. Pesko has a reputation as Russia's “good friend”, because he has been repeatedly seen in helping Russian diplomats in addressing organizational and technical issues within the framework of the OSCE. However, informed sources say that Moscow's hopes will be offset by the efforts of the Deputy Director of the Centre R. Ostrauskaitė (curator of “Ukrainian issues”) and the possible appointment to the post of a Deputy Head of the CPC for operational and analytical work — of the acting Head of the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian checkpoints “Gukovo” and “Donetsk” P. Picard. Both, according to experts, have an excellent command of issues and their attitude to our country is impartial.

During June-July this year, the Russian side has intensified diplomatic and informational pressure at the level of the OSCE in order to strengthen positions of influence in the Organization, to provide the most advantageous to the Kremlin explanation of events in the East of Ukraine, as well as to impose beneficial to pro-Russian militants options for resolving the conflict.

At this, the Russian side hopes to use the fact that the main source of information by which the OSCE participating States are guided in determining their position in relation to the conflict in Ukraine are analytical weekly reports of the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE, as well as the progress of negotiations with representatives of the Organization in the TLG, including its working subgroups. In this regard, the Russian diplomats and “friends of Moscow” in the Palffy Palace concentrate their efforts on “correcting” the content and tone of the reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. In particular, the Russian representatives to the OSCE actively report their concern about the alleged “growing imbalance” in informing the OSCE SMM in Ukraine on the basis of visits to Ukrainian and controlled by “DPR”/“LPR” places of storage of heavy weapons.

Besides, every effort is made to block initiatives to increase capacity of the SMM (extension of the Mission's mandate, inclusion of the SMM “UN communication element” and so on). As part of this policy, Russian diplomacy uses tactics where at the initial stage of nucleation of specific initiatives, representatives of the Russian Federation take a neutral position and maximum distance themselves from their development. At the same time at the stage of decision making on the way to practical realization, they occupy a categorical position. This approach allows Russia, on the one hand, to deplete the resources of the Organization due to their distraction by “hopeless projects”, and on the other — to gradually form a position on the need to take into account Russia's interests in the preparation of any initiative on the Ukrainian direction. With the same purpose Russia has been promoting the need to “attach” to the OSCE SMM Russian specialists in the analysis of satellite images.

One of the main directions of Moscow's political and diplomatic activities is legitimization of the leaders of the so-called “DPR”/”LPR” through direct dialogue between the official Kyiv and terrorists, as well as targeted pressure on the official Kyiv to grant special status to the “DPR”/”LPR” as a part of Ukraine.

Thus, the need for the above-mentioned direct contacts was one of the subjects of the Russian side and terrorists' 's demarches at the meeting of the Tripartite Liaison Group. At this, representatives of the Russian Federation today are trying to position the prospects for such a dialogue as a potential option to demonstrate progress in the talks in Minsk. Besides the envoys of the Kremlin say that the resumption of the Law “On Special Status of Certain Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” is a basic and practical evidence of Ukraine's readiness for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Donbas. In this context, they point to the official Kyiv's alleged desire to create conditions for “squeezing” the self-proclaimed “republics” from the Ukrainian legal field.

Doing all this, the Russian side is actively manipulating the most sensitive at this stage for the OSCE issues in the context of the situation in the East of Ukraine — the threat of escalation of the situation, as well as the complete failure of the Minsk Agreements.

Notable in this context were the Minsk Consultations (July 14, 2015) within the framework of the meeting of the Political Subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group to resolve the situation in the Donbas, during which the representative of the Russian Federation M. Polyakov told the OSCE Representative P. Morel, that the official Kyiv's not resuming of the Law “On Special Status…” is an evidence of Ukraine's simulation of resolving the conflict in the Donbas. He specifies, in turn, that supposedly there are reasonable grounds during the next meeting in the format of “Norman Quartet” to acknowledge a violation of the basic provisions of the Minsk agreements by the Ukrainian side.

At this, M. Polyakov insisted on the need either to really influence Kyiv's position, or to formally recognize the impossibility of implementing the provisions of the Minsk Protocol, and, respectively, to begin the search for new ways to resolve the conflict. A similar position on the threat of failure of the “Minsk-2” was expressed at the level of the OSCE Troyka (Three) by the Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland D. Burkhalter.

L. ZannierAccording to the OSCE Secretary General L. Zannier, the current events in the East of Ukraine are due to the lack of real political will on the part of the Kremlin to the de-escalation of the situation in the conflict zone. Among the factors that significantly complicate the SMM's work in Ukraine, L. Zannier stresses the extension for three months of the mandate of the Observer Mission at the Russian border checkpoints “Gukovo” and “Donetsk” without geographical expansion of the area of responsibility, as well as problems with the Mission's using UAVs. The mentioned problems are caused not only by technical problems, but also by regular cases of radio interference, showing that Putin's “tractor-drivers” use high-tech military electronic equipment available in the Russian Army.

Taking into consideration the limitations of the Organization's possibilities in the context of settlement of the situation in the East of Ukraine, as well as the activity of Russian lobbyists and the Kremlin's intransigence, in the offices on Josefsplatz, there are increasing voices for the possibility of making progress at the expense of the official Kyiv's concessions. The OSCE Secretary General L. Zannier's initiatives are discussed which call to intensify dialogue in the “Ukrainian issue” with the leading pan-European organizations (EU, Council of Europe, NATO) and organization of wide discussions about the role and peculiarities of activities of these organizations in Ukraine. At the same time, the held in Vienna in late June, 2015, meeting of representatives of the OSCE, EU, UN and NATO shows that today the subject of such a dialogue is rather formation of a common assessment of Russia's current actions, than determination of coherent and comprehensive measures to curb the Kremlin's destructive policy.

Besides, the Russian Permanent Representative to the UN carefully monitors the situation in the Secretariat of this Organization in order to block L. Zannier's ideas on the inclusion into the SMM in Ukraine of the OSCE’s military component with a separate mandate from the UN Security Council (in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter) that would increase the Mission's capacity to implement complex security tasks, and would meet the demands of many OSCE participating States to wider involve the Mission in the process of de-escalation of the conflict.


So, today there is a lot of objective evidence, that Russia's positions in the OSCE are influential enough for it to block the implementation of the most ambitious and promising, in terms of the interests of Ukraine, initiatives (expansion of the mandate of the SMM, resumption of control on the Ukrainian-Russian border, development of Mission's military component and so on).

Besides, the Kremlin actively manipulates the most sensitive at this stage for the OSCE issues in the context of the situation in the East of Ukraine — the threat of escalation of the situation, and the total failure of the Minsk Agreements. It also demonstrates the willingness to “raise the stakes” (to officially recognize the failure of the “Minsk-2”) in case if Russia's vision of the conflict settlement is ignored (direct dialogue between the conflicting parties, special status, etc).

Despite the destructive actions of Putin's Russia and spreading among the OSCE member countries of the “fatigue syndrome” from the conflict in the East of Ukraine, as well as the tendency for appointment to corresponding positions in the OSCE of loyal to Russia officials, the Kremlin cannot count on the development of the situation according to the beneficial to Moscow scenario.