Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks in the Normandy Format, Berlin, June 11, 2018
Certainly, we could not solve all the problems related to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements on the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis. I think that this meeting was very beneficial.
We have reviewed once again the entire situation pertaining to security, political reforms, economy, and humanitarian problems. Our hosts – the German colleagues – will make public the understanding that they have conceived following our talks.
In a nutshell, we have reaffirmed the priority of addressing the humanitarian problems and paying attention to the need to agree on the terms of liberation of detainees. This subject was discussed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko during a telephone conversation that took place while President Putin was visiting China. Following their conversation, special human rights commissioners are in contact and trying to compile a roadmap for addressing matters related to the release of the detainees. To be sure, a distinction should be drawn between those arrested solely for their professional activities, as was your colleague, Kirill Vyshinsky, who has been charged with high treason in Ukraine, and those suspected of and charged with real misdemeanors.
We have also discussed today the need for concrete steps to normalise the security situation in Donbass. We have focused on the fact that the Normandy Format leaders addressed this situation in person in October 2016 and came to terms on a disengagement of the parties’ forces and weapons in the three specific populated localities – Petrovskoye, Zolotoye, and Stanitsa Luganskaya. This agreement has not been implemented to this day. In Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, these actions were indeed undertaken but since then the Ukrainian armed forces have returned to these “gray zones.” As far as Stanitsa Luganskaya is concerned, we have paid special attention today to the Ukrainian Government’s demand to start the disengagement of forces and weapons only in the event of seven days of complete silence and full compliance with the ceasefire. We have cited facts indicating that the OSCE Mission recorded seven-day and longer periods of full compliance with the ceasefire on more than 20 occasions. Despite this, the Ukrainian side is refusing to implement the Normandy Format leaders’ agreements on the disengagement of forces and assets. We hope that today our German and French colleagues will confirm the importance of implementing what the leaders have agreed on.
Concerning the political process, primarily elections and the special status of Donbass envisaged by the Minsk Agreements, we had a long debate on what should come first and what next – a law on the special status of Donbass or elections in that territory of Ukraine. At a certain stage, back in 2015, the “Steinmeier formula” was suggested – Frank-Walter Steinmeier was the German foreign minister at the time – that solved the problem of sequencing the approval of the law on the special status of Donbass and the holding of elections there. In spite of the fact that the “Steinmeier formula” was endorsed in 2015 and reaffirmed in 2016, our Ukrainian colleagues are still preventing this formula, the leaders’ agreement, from being put on paper and acquiring legal force. Today, we have discussed this as well, and our French and German colleagues have supported us in this regard.
I hope the signals we are sending to the outside world from here today will produce an effect. In the first place, I am referring to what our leaders have agreed on: the disengagement of forces and weapons in the three pilot areas, which the leaders of the four countries have personally outlined on the map, and the implementation of the Steinmeier formula.”
I believe that such meetings are beneficial, although we know that discussions on synchronising moves to implement the Minsk Agreements are held not only by the foreign ministries but also by the foreign policy advisers to the presidents of the three countries as well as the Chancellor of Germany. These contacts will be continued and we have actively supported them. This is what we have discussed today. Of course, the fact that all participants in today’s meeting have reaffirmed the immutability of the Minsk Agreements is of decisive importance, although we have questions about how our Ukrainian colleagues treat these agreements.
Question: Have you discussed UN peacekeepers?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes we have. The Russian position is utterly clear. We have a proposal that was submitted to the UN Security Council last September, a proposal aimed at providing UN protection for the OSCE monitors. We have explained that the ideas put forward by the Ukrainian colleagues and the US representatives, who would like this peacekeeping mission to be turned into a military-political commandant’s office that will take the entire territory of these proclaimed republics – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic – under its control and will decide on its own who should be elected and how this should be done, are ruining the Minsk Agreements. I think our French and German colleagues understand our logic. The Ukrainian colleagues are still insisting that precisely this approach, one that is totally at variance with the Minsk Package of Measures, will suit them to a T.
We have reiterated that we have a draft resolution on the table, which implies UN support for OSCE actions undertaken in furtherance of and in keeping with the Minsk Agreements. If our colleagues have any comments on this draft, we will ask them to submit these to us in writing and in some legal form. So far, we have not received one single proposal on how to modify our draft resolution. Our US colleagues are throwing some abstract ideas into the air that do not lend themselves to being expressed on paper. The US Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, says that the ball is in Russia’s court. His knowledge of diplomacy must not be very extensive because the ball is right in the court of those who are trying to challenge our concept of a United Nations mission in support of the OSCE and the Minsk Package of Measures. We will proceed from this assumption until we are presented with concrete amendments to the concrete text of the resolution that we circulated.
Question: Have you discussed the situation in Donbass in the context of the FIFA World Cup?
Sergey Lavrov: No, we have not.