Ukraine has launched a new round of lobbying for a new plan concerning the implementation of Minsk Agreements. It is presented in two interviews with the leaders of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG (the Trileteral Contact Group) – Leonid Kravchuk and Oleksiy Reznikov.
The practical steps proposed by the Ukrainian delegation came in the following order:
*Mid-November: ICRC must be allowed access to persons held in the occupied territories.
*Mid-December: People held must be released under the all-for-all formula, the number of OSCE SMM monitors must be increased in early 2021 by 1,500, all foreign troops must be withdrawn and the illegal armed groups disarmed, and control over the state border must be returned to Ukraine. Only thereafter, the Ukrainian delegation proposes, could elections be held on March 31, 2021, in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution and the requirements of the Copenhagen Document.
Leonid Kravchuk stated in his interiew with Russia’s TASS agency, “There have been many changes in the non-government-controlled part of Donbass in the last six years. The agreements which were reached in 2015 have become outdated. … The order in which the conditions of the Minsk Agreements approved in 2015 cannot be implemented by Ukraine. The revision of its sequence is required…”
One of the most troublesome issues of the Minsk Agreements has always been the control over the Ukraine-Russia border. Kravchuk also prioritizes to the re-establishment of border control over political arrangements envisaged by the Agreements.
The sequence of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements is detailed in the so-called “Steinmeier Formula” of 2016. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, has declared Russia’s disagreement with Ukraine’s pushing for the next round, which Ukraine sees as the peace plan. The TASS reported Peskov stating, “The subject matter there is quite different from the content and sequence of steps enshrined in the Minsk Accords”.
In his address during his visit to the Luhansk Region of November 5, President Zelensky expressed his confidence that the alterations Kiev is proposing are likely to be agreed. He said, “I have been stating many times that we are moving forward towards the ‘Minsk format’… A large group has been developing the sequence of steps we are proposing”.
President Zelensky hopes that the proposals by Ukraine will be discussed on November 13, 2020, during the consultations of the political advisors to the Normandy Four.
Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, has been expressing his disapproval of the Minsk Format as such, “Don’t expect any miracle from Minsk. It is not going to bring peace”. On November 8 Reznikov was reported suggesting that the fifth subgroup would be established within the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk. It should deal with the issues of preparations to restore Ukraine’s control over the border with Russia. Reznikov believes that Russia is not managing to care of the approximately 3–3.5 million people residing in the non-government-controlled areas of Donbass (pensions, salaries and maintaining order).
Reznikov has caused substantial indignation and criticism because of a number of his recent comments on the residents of the non-controlled part of Donbass. Thus, on November 1, 2020 he stated, “What we do not need to do is to see something as a tumor that we can’t remove. However, we are aware that there are two variants. These are sick territories, mentally as well. There is a variant of its complete resection, amputation or its treatment”.
In the same interview Reznikov stated that in his view “Russia doesn’t want Donbass as they understand that it will never become full-fledged Russian territory ‘neither mentally nor economically’”. According to Reznikov, the Russian authorities are looking for a way to “rid itself of this territory” in order to “save face” for President Vladimir Putin. Reznikov, in his October 16 interview, stated that his ministry is considering applying the Croatian model to reintegrate Donbass, which is described as a combination of military action and political negotiations.