Alexander Hug, the Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine has paid an unexpected visit to Donetsk, in order to meet with the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Alexander Zakharchenko, who was «a signatory to the Minsk agreement». Hug urgently needed to hold a «constructive discussion» with the head of the DPR – as he told reporters after the meeting, so that «the OSCE SMM is able to support and assist the leaders of the DPR in solving a number of problems». Hug also noted that «Mr Zakharchenko» had been entrusted with a «very serious responsibility».
Those words miss the point. This senior OSCE official needed to quickly speak to Zakharchenko about the «Minsk agreement» at this particular moment because the Ukrainians are starting to experience some significant difficulties in their shelling of the Donbass.
The picture along the line of demarcation has changed. Kiev previously had a very simplistic understanding of the term «cease-fire»: each day Ukraine’s armed forces shelled residential areas in Donetsk, Horlivka, nearby villages, and the Yasynuvata checkpoint («occasionally» using ammunition against multi-story residential buildings); forcibly made their way into buffer zones where they entrenched themselves; moved their checkpoints several kilometers closer to the boundaries of the republics right under the noses of the OSCE observers; made flagrant raids that lost them equipment and manpower in order to get a sense of the defenses of the DPR and LPR; and committed acts of sabotage. But Alexander Hug, the Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM to Ukraine, did not rush to Donetsk to hold a «constructive discussion».
It’s long been an open secret that a low-level war has been smoldering in the Donbass since the fall of 2015, which ratchets up with each new event, degree by degree, month by month. In the spring and summer of 2016 the conflict ramped up, pushing everything back to where it was in 2014. Social networks were filled with the latest reports from the sites of the bombardment.
But Hug was in no rush to go see Zakharchenko. Nor did the Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM show up after tactical missiles were launched toward Donetsk this summer from behind the line of demarcation. And last spring, when civilians were shot as they waited in their cars to pass through the Ukrainian army checkpoint in Elenovka, the OSCE SMM observers did not arrive at the scene of the tragedy for about seven hours, reluctant to be dragged from their warm beds and breakfast tables. Five civilians were killed that day, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Zakharchenko was there, but not Hug.
Hug did not pay a call on Donetsk even after projectiles were fired on apartment buildings in Yasynuvata. Even the interminable hell in Horlivka, a city that is constantly in the line of fire, did not prompt him to make a quick visit.
Hug came to meet with the head of the DPR only after Ukrainian hospitals started having to treat dozens of patients each day who had been injured taking part in the «anti-terror operation» (ATO).
Only then did Alexander Hug suddenly remember that «Mr Zakharchenko» had signed the «Minsk agreement», and a «constructive discussion» needed to be held with him. After all, the Ukrainians are not used to carrying out «anti-terror operations» that way – Kiev only felt at ease as long as the fighters from the republic’s armed forces were not responding to being shelled by the ATO forces.
Yet the republics believe that the main reason why Hug paid a visit to Zakharchenko was because the IMF was refusing to consider at its August meeting the question of providing Ukraine with the next installment on its loan. Eduard Basurin, the DPR’s deputy defense minister, stated as much. He believes that the Ukrainians’ failure to abide by the «Minsk agreement», as well as their misuse of the IMF’s money to finance military operations in the Donbass, was the turning point that prompted the International Monetary Fund to refuse credit to Kiev. This was the same impetus for the arrival of the OSCE SMM representative in Donetsk for a «constructive discussion» and the reduction in the attacks. «This shows that when it serves them, the OSCE mission can have a real influence on the Ukrainian armed forces’ ceasefire violations», stated Eduard Basurin.
Currently it serves them. Everything is going wrong for the government in Kiev – there are no victories on the eastern front, nor are any expected, and there is little hope of any loans from their «friends» in the West. And after some acts of provocation occurred in Crimea, Russia’s president made things abundantly clear: the Ukrainian government has chosen the path of terrorism because it is either unable or unwilling to abide by the «Minsk agreement».
It seems that Alexander Hug had even decided to play along with Kiev’s game when he arrived in Donetsk for his «constructive discussion» – somehow the fiction must be upheld that the Ukrainians have not totally forgotten about the «Minsk agreement».
Alexander Hug did not meet with former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who signed the «Minsk agreement» on behalf of Ukraine, even just as an indication of token interest in also holding a «constructive discussion» with the Ukrainian half of the equation.
And the OSCE SMM should have released exactly the same statement after a meeting between Hug and Kuchma in Kiev as it released after the meeting between Hug and Zakharchenko in Donetsk. Word for word, about «Mr Kuchma’s» serious responsibility and the necessity of ending the shelling and withdrawing the weapons.
However, there was no such a statement! There was no meeting in the Ukrainian capital.
It seems that the OSCE is only interested in one side of the conflict.