Year after Minsk-2 Accords conflict in Ukraine is frozen, settlement outlook bleak

MOSCOW, February 11. /TASS/. Not that the Minsk-2 Accords, signed a year ago, have proved utterly useless, but the cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine remains extremely fragile. There have been no positive change in social affairs, the economy or politics. The blame rests heavily on Kyiv, which has never made any secret of its intention to disrupt the agreements and have them revised.

The entire complex of measures to effect the Minsk Accords is a document agreed at a four-nation summit on February 11-12, 2015, which brought together the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia, commonly referred to as the Normandy Quartet. The accords were signed by the Contact Group consisting of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics with the aim to de-escalate the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine.

“Ukraine is in no mood to adhere to the Minsk Accords, unless it is forced to do that. And that can be done only by the Americans,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview to the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, published on Thursday.

That the implementation of the agreements, concluded back in February 2015, has not moved an inch forward is an established fact. Termination of the acute phase is possibly the sole achievement. Many items of the peace plan have not been implemented to this day. Kyiv continues to put forward absurd ultimatums regarding the border and alleged Russian military presence for the sole reason to gain time. In fact, as Lavrov said, it turns the agreements “upside down.”

Even Germany and France, whose leaders agreed to act as Minsk-2 guarantors, have begun to understand that Kyiv is just fooling around, as Lavrov put it.

“It is nakedly clear that the Kyiv regime does not have the slightest intention to grant autonomy to Donbass in the form of some special status enshrined in the Constitution and backed up by legislative acts,” Ukraine’s former prime minister, Nikolai Azarov, believes. “The authorities in Kyiv hope that under the pressure of western sanctions Russia will force Donbass leaders to agree to Kyiv’s interpretation of the Minsk Accords, which would in fact be tantamount to Donbass’s takeover and harsh cleansing against those who offered or still may offer resistance to the regime.”

“Saying that the Minsk Accords have fallen through with a crash would be unfair,” the general director of the Russian Council on International Affairs, Andrey Kortunov, has told TASS. “The intensity of combat clashes in the east of Ukraine has eased. The situation is far calmer, although some violations do happen from time to time. Heavy weapons have been pulled back from the engagement line and some prisoners of war have been exchanged. It can be stated that the military part of Minsk-2 is being implemented, of course, although not without problems.

As far as politics is concerned, the situation is far worse, Kortunov said.

“A large share of responsibility for this should be placed on the authorities in Kyiv, which displayed no political will they had promised in order to carry out the constitutional reform, to grant a special legal status to some areas of Donbass and to guarantee their autonomy.

Kortunov is certain that Washington’s influence on Kyiv’s stance should not be under-estimated.

“The United States, although formally it is not a participant in the Minsk Accords, has been and will continue to be involved in the Ukrainian crisis,” he said.

“Europe is for the conflict’s freeze, rather than for its continuation, because a bad peace is better than a good quarrel, as the saying goes. But a freeze cannot be the final goal. I believe that in Europe everybody understands that the conflict is too close and too dangerous. For the United States freezing the conflict is the ultimate end, for it will enables Washington to build up NATO’s muscle and to create problems for Russia.”

“The Minsk-2 Accords were a noticeable event, because ceasefire was ensured by and large. At that moment it was number one goal,” the leading research fellow at the Russian presidential academy RANEPA, Sergey Bespalov, told TASS. “But the provisions that had been expected to herald final settlement have not materialized to this day. The main logic of Minsk-2 is it establishes a certain sequence of action to be taken by the signatories. First, Ukraine is to carry out a constitutional reform and provide guarantees of a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. Next there should follow local elections in the militias-controlled territories. This is precisely what the Ukrainian side does not like. Kyiv wants to regain control of the border with Russia first and foremost.

Ukrainian politicians deliberately move towards the disruption of agreements.

“Although in public many politicians in the European Union, let alone Americans, continue to blame Russia for allegedly defaulting on the Minsk Accords, ever more political figures in Europe acknowledge that the Ukrainian side is responsible in reality,” Bespalov said. “Many European countries, including France, and a large share of the German elite and South European countries would be sincerely interested in the implementation of the accords and in lifting sanctions from Russia. But the bureaucracy in Brussels and the key German politicians, who are pushing ahead with pro-American policies, are not interested in that.”

Bespalov believes that the conflict will remain frozen “either until the moment the US puts really strong pressure on Kyiv, or until the day when Ukraine, which is in crisis and is balancing on the brink of catastrophe, will see fundamental shifts in its bodies of power.”

“Should that happen, the conflict will be unfrozen again,” he said.

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