Cyprus Mail
Guest ColumnistOpinion

Direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk is the key to everything

Crisis in Ukraine - free bread distribution in Donetsk

By Stanislav Osadchiy

RECENTLY, my attention has been attracted by a number publications and remarks regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the role of Russia in this process. Unfortunately, some of them contained assertions and facts which might be misleading. That is why I find it necessary to make some comments on them.

One of the typical errors is that Russia allegedly violated the Budapest Memorandum which provided Ukraine with security assurances in connection with its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state.

On this, let me say that the Budapest Memorandum contains political obligations that are exactly the same as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) obligations: to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. But it does not contain an obligation to recognise the results of armed coups d’etat committed in Ukraine on February 22, 2014.

Another delusion is that “militants” in the Donbas allegedly ignored the Ukrainian law of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk, and in breach of Ukrainian legislation and Minsk agreements held their own “presidential” and “parliamentary elections” on November 2, 2014 instead of doing that on December 7, 2014 as the law said. Russia is also reproached for insisting that Kiev start a dialogue with the two mentioned regions.

One cannot agree with the above assertions. The elections were envisaged in the Minsk agreements together with a series of other steps. The aforesaid law did not fully reflect the Minsk accords. I have to remind that after the elections representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk reaffirmed the Joint Communique of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic of September 1, 2014 when they came to Minsk for the start of the talks. It said that based on the results of the talks, they would be ready to discuss the restoration of the common economic, humanitarian and political space of Ukraine. Actually, this was an invitation to dialogue proposed to Kiev.

Instead, the Ukrainian authorities refuse to recognise the elections, although the timing (November 2) was within the period agreed upon in Minsk. Next, in accordance with the Minsk agreements, after the elections the Ukrainian authorities were to pass an Amnesty Act, but it never happened.

There are also social and economic rights that have been seriously undermined, and the restoration of which is generally envisaged under the Minsk agreements. They contain a provision on rehabilitation of the economy and on addressing social and humanitarian problems. President Poroshenko, however, issued a decree which cut off Donetsk and Lugansk from Ukraine’s economic and financial system, forbade paying pensions and other benefits and removed these southeastern regions from the hryvnia zone. In fact the Ukrainian authorities established an economic blockade of these territories.

We strongly believe that the rights of the people of Donetsk and Lugansk must be fully respected in the settlement process. These people have their own vision of the situation. They live there under artillery attacks; their family and friends are killed and injured and social infrastructure is destroyed. People live in appalling conditions.

Despite their declarations of independence and sovereignty referendums, after the Minsk agreements were reached, Donetsk and Lugansk committed themselves to search for solutions to all of their problems within the bounds of the Ukrainian state, provided of course that the Minsk agreements are fully implemented in good faith and in the sequence that they provide for.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated, Russia backed the Minsk agreements without any reservations. They are completely in sync with our vision of how to resolve this crisis. Trying to question their viability and the integrity of the Ukrainian state now would be tantamount to abetting all sorts of extremists. We do not want this. We want Ukraine to do everything it’s responsible for, including decentralisation, constitutional reform and amnesty for all participants in the events in southeastern Ukraine. Whatever point of the Minsk agreements you take, practically all of them provide for coordination between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. The Ukrainian authorities refuse to do this, which is the key problem impeding the implementation of the Minsk agreements and accord on all issues related to Ukrainian statehood.

So far, Kiev is trying to act unilaterally. For example, the Constitutional Commission does not include a single representative from the self-proclaimed republics. The draft constitution that they wrote was sent for discussion not to Donetsk and Lugansk, but to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which stated last year that it would be prepared to consider Ukraine’s draft constitution provided it understood the status of this document – how broadly it was discussed in society. And it was not discussed in society. Again, the direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk is the key to everything.

And last, but not the least, last Wednesday, July 1, 2015 we learnt that the Ukrainian Security Service kidnapped and then deported Alexandra Cherepnina, correspondent of the Russian First TV Channel in Ukraine. You ask why? Just because they did not like her reportage. And this was not an exceptional case. Deportation of Russian journalists has become a common practice in Ukraine, while broadcasting of Russian TV channels continues to be banned there. Four Russian journalists have been killed in that country when they fulfilled their professional duty.

I wonder if all these have anything to do with democracy?

Stanislav Osadchiy is the Russian Ambassador to Cyprus

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