Staunton, January 31 – Western governments and Moscow continue to press Kyiv to meet the provisions of the Minsk Accords, but the Russian side continues to violate them and even more to demonstrate in its demands for change in Ukraine itself why no Ukrainian government could possibly accept them in their current form, Kyiv analysts say.
Mikhail Samus, the director of Kyiv’s Center for Research on the Army, Conversion and Disarmament, tells Kseniya Kirillova for RFE/RL that it should be obvious to all on the basis of Putin’s January 11 statement that the Kremlin leader’s goal is “not an end of the armed conflict but rather political changes in Ukraine” (ru.krymr.com/content/article/27520349.html).
If one examines Putin’s statement to “Bild,” he continues, then it is clear that from Putin’s perspective, “if constitutional reform will be carried out in Ukraine, then Russia will end the occupation of Ukrainian territories.” That is “very interesting logic” from someone who presents himself as a peacemaker.
It shows that “the end of military actions is not a condition for the realization of the Minsk Accords,” at least as far as Putin is concerned, Samus says. “First he demands constitutional reform and political processes and then on the basis of that supposedly will be created an atmosphere of trust and the completion of all processes including closing the border.”
That suggests, the Kyiv analyst continues, that “Russia has all the possibilities to close the border right now and is using this factor exclusively to blackmail Ukraine.”
And as far as the specific points of the Minsk Accords are concerned, Russia has not fulfilled any of them. Points 1 and 2 which call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons hasn’t happened. Point 3 regarding OSCE monitoring has “also been violated. Points 9 and 10 about withdrawal of forces and weapons haven’t happened either.
“More than that,” he says, “the Russian side doesn’t even intend to consider them” because it argues that this can happen “only after constitutional reform in Ukraine and the carrying out of elections on the occupied territories.” Meanwhile, Russian forces and Russian-backed forces continue their activities unrestrained.
“If Russia maintains its present approach,” the Kyiv analyst says, “Ukraine shoud reject the Minsk Accords and present at an international level an initiative for the creation of a new form of resolving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”
Given the centrality of Ukrainian constitutional reforms in Russian thinking, it is important to recognize just what Moscow wants – and to see that if Kyiv accepted them, it would be condemning Ukraine to a rickety instability that Moscow could use to prevent it from achieving stability or pursuing its foreign policy goals.
In a blog post, Kirill Sazonov lists the three things Moscow and its forces in the Donbas are demanding. First, they want the Donbas to have a fixed “quota of seats in the Verkhovna Rada,” thus giving the region a veto not only over actions with regard to itself but over actions for Ukraine as a whole (blogs.lb.ua/kirill_sazonov/326559_minske_postavili_tochku.html).
Second, they want a total amnesty for all the militants in the Donbas, something that would allow those people to continue to function and undermine the Ukrainian state. And third, they want autonomy for this region so broad that it and not Kyiv could decide on relations with Russia, have its own independent police and security services, and even border guards.
“In general,” Sazonov writes, “all the militants would find work in the siloviki structures over which Kyiv would not have any influence. All power in the region would be independent of the Center but would have the possibility of controlling the Verkhovna Rada,” conditions that would give the Donbas something more than “full independence.”
Moscow and its minions, he continues, “want full independence plus free access to the territory of Ukraine plus the right of a veto in the Verkhovna Rada as well as an open corridor for the Russian army and contraband” given that the siloviki and border guards would not be subordinate to Kyiv.
“This is more than Chechnya received after its de facto victory over Russia” as Grozny “doesn’t have a veto in the State Duma.” Kyiv has rejected these demands; but pressure from Moscow and the West for it to fulfill the Minsk Accords continues, even though the fulfillment of such provisions in the Russian understanding would mean the end of the Ukrainian state.