The settlement of local ethnic conflicts is considered to be one of the most difficult diplomatic problems. The reason for this is that reconciliation does not require the government or the armies of both sides, but the people themselves, each of which genuinely considers themselves a victim of enemy action. And sometimes it is not even enemy action, but that of another ethnic group. The conflict between Ukraine and Novorossiya is a typical example, despite the fact that the same Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Bulgarians and Jews living in the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics (DPR and LPR) are the same as in the rest of Ukraine.
After punitive operations began against Donbass, however, its population does not associate itself with Ukraine, calling them «Moskals» for wanting to remain closer to Russia than to Kiev, while the latter do not want to be identified with Ukrainians, calling them «Ukrops» (‘dill heads’). But everyone is trying to force people with two mutually exclusive ideologies, two irreconcilable cultures and two opposing world views to be reconciled. Those who do not understand that reconciliation will only come when mutual exclusion, intransigence and opposition disappear, when a compromise is found and not crushed by one of the sides involved.
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One of the tasks given to Ukraine by the Minsk agreements and the UN Security Council resolution is to make changes to the constitution that reinforce the special status of the DPR and LPR.
The task is so complicated that the Kiev authorities have seemingly found themselves in a hopeless situation: failure is not an option. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko openly declared: «What would the failure of the reform mean? First – it’s the end of the international coalition to support Ukraine.» It was not for nothing that, for the sake of the right solution, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who is in charge of Ukraine, arrived in Kiev on the eve of the vote in the Verkhovna Rada on Poroshenko’s proposed changes to the constitution. Literally right before the issue was considered in parliament. And after the meeting with the Ukrainian president, changes were introduced into the draft. And what changes! Instead of the transitional provisions of the bill, the issue of the special status of Donbass was moved to the transitional provisions of the constitution itself. And Nuland, along with the US Ambassador to Ukraine and a good dozen ambassadors of other European states, was not too lazy to go to the Verkhovna Rada and personally monitor the voting process.
But it is impossible to fulfil the condition of the Minsk agreements. Anti-Donbass and anti-Russian propaganda hysteria have taken their toll: it is not only the ordinary people at whom this hysteria was aimed that have been filled with hatred towards the residents of Novorossiya, but the vast majority of Ukrainian politicians, including deputies, who are categorically refusing to resolve the armed conflict with those living in the breakaway regions peacefully. The president has had to fight with members of his own party so that they would vote not even for adopting the bill, but for submitting it the Constitutional Court for review.
The biggest reason, however, why fulfilling point 11 of the Minsk agreements is impossible is the position of the neo-Nazi militants concentrated predominantly in the punitive battalions of Pravy Sektor. It is not just giving the DPR and LPR special status that they do not accept, but the talks on their status themselves. This was confirmed once again at a ‘popular assembly’ organised by neo-Nazis on Maidan Square in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on 21 July. In addition, on the eve of the parliamentary vote, Pravy Sektor members threatened to put every deputy who voted in favour of Poroshenko’s bill on a hit list, while promising to shoot Poroshenko himself in a basement somewhere.
The threat is by no means unfounded. Just the punitive battalions recognising the leadership of Pravy Sektor easily amount to some 15,000-18,000 fighters, all of whom are well prepared, well armed and seriously motivated. In fact, these battalions are the main striking force of the punitive operation against Novorossiya. And orders given to the Ukrainian military are only obeyed when they did not contradict the orders given by their neo-Nazi leader, Dmytro Yarosh. They regard the current government as temporary fellow travellers they are prepared to get rid of as soon as the need arises in the «second phase of the national revolution», as they call the establishment of a Nazi dictatorship.
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How exactly Poroshenko, who has found himself between a rock and a hard place, will manage to get out of the situation is already being discussed by those observing events in Ukraine. And their conclusion, even among those in support of the Kiev government, is clear: there is absolutely no suggestion that the Minsk agreements and the UN Security Council resolution will be implemented. He is simply trying to deceive the international community, to pretend that they are being implemented, while openly declaring that he is engaged in falsification and deception to please anti-Russian forces in the West.
However, the Orwellian rhetoric of Kiev like «war is peace» is not the know-how of the Ukrainian authorities. The deputies of ‘independent’ Ukraine who voted in favour of the bill are still sharing their impressions of their ‘free’ vote under unprecedented pressure from the US ambassador and his boss. The one who said, while looking straight at the TV camera, that sending the bill to the Constitutional Court for an unpredictable review is already an implementation of the Minsk agreements. Because the decision of an ‘independent’ body of an ‘independent’ state depends on how the issue will be dealt with in the State Department.
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Many i’s were dotted at the meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine held in Minsk on 21 July. For example, Germany’s initiative to restore Donbass’ water supply destroyed by Ukraine was discussed. The Minsk agreements provide for the renewal of broken social and economic ties between Kiev and the DPR and LPR, including the restoration of destroyed infrastructure. But since Ukraine regards even humanitarian supplies of food and medicine to the starving population of Donbass as a violation of its sovereignty, Kiev will not allow such a step. Just as it will not refuse Bonn, which is supporting the Kiev authorities in the international arena. This is precisely why talks on the water supply have dragged on for much longer than talks on the most sensitive military issues.
The OSCE, which is meant to be independent, but owing to its deaf, mute and blind observers has become one of the sides in the conflict, has also made its voice heard. Its observers «did not notice» the dozens of daily attacks on the cities of Donbass, and once again it «did not see» the voluntarily withdrawal of artillery and armoured vehicles by the Novorossiya army. And not just the withdrawal of heavy artillery, but also systems with a calibre of 100 millimetres and above, initiated voluntarily by the DPR and LPR.
Moreover, no agreement was signed on 21 July on such a withdrawal, since the «president of peace», as Poroshenko calls himself, did not give his delegation permission to sign it. It refers to the withdrawal of tanks, artillery equipment with a calibre of up to 100 mm and mortars. This document should have been initialled on Tuesday evening by members of the working subgroup on security issues of the Trilateral Contact Group. Ukraine is represented in this subgroup by ex-defence minister Yevhen Marchuk. And no sooner than 22 July, news agencies began spreading the word that Poroshenko had been instructed to sign the agreement immediately.
It has also become standard for Kiev to refuse to recognise attempts by Donetsk and Luhansk to independently implement the Minsk agreements with regard to local elections, since for such a recognition, Poroshenko and his entourage require the unconditional fulfilment of prerequisites, which would mean the virtual surrender of the republics. At the same time, Ukraine has not only failed to fulfil its obligations regarding the coordination of legislative changes relating to Donbass with representatives of both the DPR and LPR, but is also categorically refusing any contact with them besides the talks in Minsk.
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But the fraudulent nature of Poroshenko and his puppet masters in Washington is ultimately revealed by the fairly liberal time constraints of his proposed amendments, as well as a law passed back in March 2015 referring to the territory controlled by the DPR and LPR as occupied. The law, which is in direct contravention of the Minsk agreements, provides for a substantial loss of rights for those living there and the punishment of anyone who takes part in events in the region. In addition, the law will only come into force after local elections have been held in Donbass, which are only possible after Kiev has regained full control over the rebel areas.
So Petro Poroshenko is not lying when he says that there is no talk of any kind of special status for Donbass and nor will there be. And does that mean he is lying when he talks about his commitment to a settlement along the lines of the Minsk agreements?