Oleksandr Klymenko – the founder of the community initiative “Restoring Donbas”, the head of the political party “Uspishna Kraina”
One year ago, the Minsk agreement was signed. Many people believed that it was a chance for peace. However, it has failed. The war is still keep on going, people are suffering and dying, the crisis is getting worse.
What is really should be done to stop the conflict in Donbas?
Why does Minsk-2 not work
First of all, let’s remember exactly what did the parties agreed about last year in Minsk.
The first and the main point – is an immediate ceasefire. It was failed. However, in summer and autumn bombardments were almost stopped. Both sides stated about the peace and necessity to demine a “neutral territory” (this step means that conflicting parties trust each other, so domineers – are harbingers of real truce).
However, in early November hostilities were resumed in Donbas. Donetsk was falling asleep under the distant, but clear hooting of shells. A week later it started in Luhansk … On December 22, contact group Minsk agreed to stop hostilities at least during the holidays in order to provide the residents of frontline villages, Donetsk and Luhansk with opportunity to celebrate the New Year and Christmas without fear of attacks.
The second point – is withdrawal of heavy (120 mm caliber and more) and medium weapons. It should have been confirmed by international observers from the OSCE. It was carried out in two stages: first of all, both sides had to withdraw its tanks, mortars, artillery, and then – a technique with small caliber (up to 100 mm). The document was signed by the Trilateral contact group (Ukraine, Russia and OSCE). The parties started to withdraw military equipment from the both sides of demarcation line.
By early summer, 30-kilometer buffer zone was almost free from artillery and tanks. OSCE observers were allowed to visit the places of storage of equipment. They fixed tanks, howitzers, mortars, etc. However, in autumn it became obvious that negotiations reached an impasse. Military equipment started to disappear. At the beginning of 2016, undeclared war has resumed with new vigor. Artillery duels resumed. By early February, demarcation line has been burning: Kominternovo, Gorlovka, Luhansk and Marinka.
The third important point, which was fixed in Minsk agreements, – is exchange of POWs. Instead of “all for all” format – it was “piece” exchanges (about a dozen people from the both sides) once a month and a half. Priority –are ill and the wounded, women.
‘Ideological’ fighters from battalions were released the last. The ideology is a problem. Donetsk insists on the amnesty of those, who were captured with weapons. Kiev states: amnesty can be carried out only under the law and only after the final ceasefire. The saddest thing is that a new law (designed to reflect current situation) can not be adopted during continuing political crisis.
Finally, each party interpret a point on early election in their own way. Trilateral Contact Group aimed at working out the modalities of the law (in other words, the elimination of discrepancies), stalled down last autumn. Kiev will not accept the elections without the control over the border.
On the one hand, there are the claims about the impossibility of holding elections without the certainty that there will be no influence on the expression of the will. On the other, control involves the participation of Ukrainian security forces (that really scares Donetsk residents). Mutual mistrust – is a huge problem.
The model, which was offered by Kiev, provides all eligible voters with a vote, including IDPs and refugees. Ukrainian Central Election Commission should count votes. Donetsk do not want to see radical parties from Central and Western Ukraine on the elections. The Law will never be coordinated without a golden mean. Searching for the golden mean – is the task of diplomats (not the maximalists).
Although the root of solving the problem, of course, are not in the debates concerning the points of the agreement. There is no consensus at the very top: the elites are separated, there is no single opinion on any of the important issues. It is particularly notably in regards to the issue of amendments to the Constitution, which are required for the implementation of peaceful plan. It is obvious that today neither Biden (US Vice President), nor no Tibetan Lama together with Vicar of Christ are not able to convince the deputies: “military” Rada (deputies were elected in the midst of the hostilities, immediately after the tragedy at Ilovaisk) can not make peaceful decisions.
Naturally, the situation in Donbas is slowly drifting towards the “frozen conflict”. Ukrainian President and his entourage believe that this is not a bad solution. However, events in the world around require lightning-fast and correct decisions. This is the course of political market conditions of the powerful ones.
Recently, BBC television demonstrated the reality show, interviewing the world’s experts on the possibility of a nuclear exchange in Russia and the United States. It was proven: “umbrella”, which is protecting Western civilization from the Russian “Squid” and “Dolphins” can be broken. The world began to feel the pulse of the most dangerous plots…
Against this background, Ukraine can become part of the deal between the powerful ones of this world (as well as it was the case with Poland and the Czech Republic in the twentieth century). The peaceful plan has already been discussed by leading diplomats. It will be beneficial to the world’s leading players, but not to Kiev or Donbas. The plan is close to the idea of Pierre Morel (a French diplomat), but it is crumpled. It provides freezing of the situation de facto, the preservation of “chaos” inside the Ukraine together with Donbas – in exchange for reconciliation with Russia and the joint attacks on the rapidly growing Islamic State.
How to resolve Donbas conflict and not lose the country
Is there any time for decision-making by Kiev? There is, but it is getting smaller every day due to institutional crisis. We must restart the legislative branch of government, and to hold elections to the Rada as soon as possible. In addition, it is necessary to vote amendments to the Constitution (during the time before the elections, it is necessary to coordination contentious issues with Donetsk and Luhansk).
In winter, when the second session begins, we should adopt all amendments overall. Thus, it will be possible to keep the status quo with individual regions: they will receive economic decentralization and understanding, that Kiev does not try to control them in “manual” mode. A “large” Ukraine will receive a signal from Donbas – reconciliation and restoration of broken relationships.
Only after a clear definition of functions of local authorities in Donbas, it will be possible to start the process for holding elections: if there is public consensus, it is no longer important, whether will “Right sector “participate in the elections and its amount of votes. Entry of dozen majoritarian deputies in the new parliament can be considered as the end of the first reconciliatory stage. On the second there will be an amnesty (the format of “all for all” – as it was in Croatia case), and formation of the People’s Police in Donbas (from local citizens in order to save trust of the residents) and restoring of infrastructure.
In parallel, it is necessary to return the dialogue to the level of the “Big Twenty.” Such offers were voiced towards Bankova at the beginning of Ukrainian crisis. However, it was chosen “Norman format”, which involve a limited number of negotiators. At the level of the “twenty”, it is possible to discuss economic issues: up to restoring Donbas not via Ukrainian budget, but by means of donor investments. Thus, Ukraine will keep its interests, Russia – will be an active negotiator, will take part in the settlement of all the formats, which is beneficial for saving its reputation. The West will obtain the opportunity to raise another strong economy among its eastern borders.
The real reason for the failure in Minsk is the fact that peace agreements are meaningful only when there is a mutual interest of the parties in its implementation. When you do not need a strict supervisor looking after the parties to the conflict have not tried to deceive each other.
Neither the second, nor the twenty-second Minsk will bring such a long-awaited peace until we understand need for dialogue and reconciliation.
Unfortunately, Ukrainians are still thinking in terms of adolescent minimalism: black and white, our-alien, right and wrong…
We have not learned to appreciate important, adult, and mature things – dialogue and compromise. We have not realized that peace can not be achieved without a responsible approach.
We still have not felt the oncoming traffic for peace from both sides of the demarcation line. From time to time, the hand of friendship (alternating on each side) hangs in the air. We are afraid of future. Such a future that is different from our understanding of it. We refuse to discuss other options for ending the conflict, except for the crushing victory of the party we support.
We are afraid to see all the different options and plots for the future. Thus, we are doomed to prolong the tragic present.