Minsk agreements on Donbass are still on paper

It has been six years since Kiev and the rebel Donbass signed a 13-point text in Minsk in February 2015 that was supposed to end the bloody confrontation in eastern Ukraine. However, there is still no peace in this region. Moreover, there is growing tension that threatens to lead to another war, writes Alex Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

Kiev has recently made contradictory statements about the fate of the Minsk Agreements: either they are declared “dead” and no longer relevant, or they declare their intention to implement them. It is obvious that the Ukrainian authorities are playing a political game around the Minsk process, counting on the support of their approach from the West and, especially, the new US administration.

The latest “news” was the statement of the head of the administration of the Ukrainian president that Kiev has allegedly developed a new plan for a peaceful settlement in the Donbass and is even waiting for its approval by France and Germany, as well as the President of Russia. Moscow was very surprised by such statements, stressing that the best plan can only be “the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. At least, this is how the press secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov reacted.

Meanwhile, Moscow is seriously concerned about the aggravation of the situation in the Donbass region and hopes that Kiev will be able to prevent an escalation. This was also reported to journalists by the official representative of the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov.

“We really observe with deep concern the growing tension on the line of contact, we record more and more frequent shelling of the territory of Donbass by Ukrainian units. We record the entry of the Ukrainian military into those zones where they should not be after the completion of the withdrawal, and all this is a reason for our serious concern,” the press secretary of the head of state said.

The day before, Life reported that in the so called Donetsk Republic the military was allowed to shoot at the Ukrainian military without warning. This measure was taken due to the ongoing shelling of the region by the Ukrainian side. The first President of Ukraine and Kiev’s plenipotentiary representative in the Trilateral Contact Group, Leonid Kravchuk, called this decision “a threat”.

And earlier in Ukraine, the deadline for the return of the Donbass was set. The efforts of the country’s authorities to achieve this goal “resonate in the West,” according to many analysts close to the government in Kiev.

In Donetsk itself, they speak quite harshly about the statements of Ukrainian officials, “Kiev deliberately announced, but did not present its initiative in order to blackmail the residents of the region, threatening them with war.” In particular, the Foreign Minister of the unrecognized Donetsk Republic Natalia Nikanorova explained that such a step was made with the expectation that if Luhansk and Donetsk refuse to comply with it, they will “arrange a military scenario”.

“This is another attempt by Ukraine to avoid the implementation of the Minsk agreements. But it is in them that the only possible path to peace is set out, ” Nikonorova stressed.

On 9 March, the head of the office of the Ukrainian president, Andriy Yermak, said that Ukraine expects Russia to approve a new plan for a peaceful settlement of the situation in the Donbas. According to him, the document meets the spirit of the Minsk agreements and complies with the norms of international law. “The peace plan is on the table… And we very much expect the same position from the Russian Federation, ” he said.

At the same time, the Kremlin said that it was not aware of Kiev’s new plans for the Donbass, and offered to return to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Attention is also drawn to the noticeably intensified attempts of the Ukrainian President Zelensky to initiate another meeting in the Normandy format with the participation of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia. The last meeting in this format was held in December 2019 in Paris and since then no visible progress has been achieved, first of all from the part of Ukraine. This sad situation does not allow that another meeting of the Normandy Four be convened.

Meanwhile Zelensky is convinced that even if such a meeting does not take place, he expects to meet with each of the leaders of France, Germany and Russia separately. Moscow has already said that “no meetings of the two presidents are planned yet.”

The Kremlin also stressed that Moscow has not seen any new plan to resolve the situation in the Donbas, which was previously announced by the head of the office of the Ukrainian president, Andriy Yermak. 

Against the background of all this talk and speculation, the situation in Donbass itself continues to escalate. Ukrainian troops regularly fire artillery and mortars at Donetsk territories, and snipers have been activated. There are numerous reports of Ukraine moving heavy equipment and weapons to the line of demarcation.

Donetsk and Luhansk are convinced that Kiev is preparing for a new war in order to return the rebel territories under its control. Return at any cost, even at the cost of the lives of their soldiers and civilians.

The conflict in the Donbas has been going on for seven years since 2014, with about 13,000 victims.

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