Comment by the Information and Press Department on the 5th anniversary of the Minsk Package of Measures to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine
February 12 marks the 5th anniversary of signing the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements which is the only way to overcome the conflict in Donbass.
This document was designed to resolve two issues, namely, to stop the civil war and to ensure lasting peace. This domestic armed conflict stemmed from the coup and anti-popular policy of Ukraine’s nationalist government. The new government trampled on the rights and freedoms of the people in southeastern Ukraine and attempted to suppress a peaceful protest through military force. It didn’t work out. The people of Donbass have proven that they can stand up for their rights, freedom and identity.
When they signed the Package of Measures in Minsk five years ago, the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk agreed to remain part of the Ukrainian state on condition of amnesty and after the government granted the region a constitutionally guaranteed special status, which then President of Ukraine Poroshenko promised to deliver. After that, elections were to be held in Donbass and Kiev was to regain control over the border. All this was supposed to be done before the end of 2015.
The signed agreements were supported by the Normandy Four, approved by the UN Security Council and, thus, became part of international law. Implementation was closely monitored by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. We very much appreciate and support SMM efforts, which, according to the mandate, were to be based on the principles of impartiality and transparency.
Today, it may be appropriate to remind everyone what the Package of Measures, which many are trying to distort, is all about. The Foreign Ministry posted an authentic copy of this document on its website.
Unfortunately, none of its provisions have been implemented in full. Despite several agreements, there has never been a complete ceasefire. Shelling along the line of contact continues, and the military equipment has not been withdrawn. Donbass has not been granted a constitutionally guaranteed special status, and no amnesty has been extended. In fact, Kiev sabotaged the Package of Measures immediately after it was signed.
The small-steps approach has led to some progress. Two major exchanges of detainees were held in five years, during which about 500 prisoners were freed. The Ukrainian authorities complied with the additional agreements signed in 2015 and 2016 on disengaging forces in the pilot areas and the Steinmeier formula only in 2019 and only after a new president had been elected. These agreements were Donbass’s major concession to Kiev.
The Normandy Four’s most recent decisions, mostly political, made during the summit in Paris are being implemented but not as fast as we would like. Here, we see Ukraine go through the motions and not even think about starting a direct dialogue with Donbass. Other political aspects of the Minsk agreements such as constitutional reform and determining local election modalities are not being implemented, either. Apparently, Zelensky forgot about his election promises to alleviate the economic and transport blockade of the self-proclaimed republics.
The settlement process is further complicated by Ukraine’s aggressive rhetoric, criticism of the Minsk agreements and calls to revise them, as well as the idea of introducing an international occupation administration in Donbass under the guise of a UN peacekeeping force, which runs counter to the Package of Measures. Kiev’s legislative initiatives, the notorious acts on reintegrating Donbass, education, the state language and the draft law on a new administrative and territorial structure, which they peddle as compliance with the decentralisation obligations, further aggravate the situation.
It even came to the point where Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation into ex-president Poroshenko’s possible treason when he signed the Package of Measures. It remains unclear whether this is a manifestation of internal political strife or an attempt to cast doubt on the Minsk agreements. In any case, revising them will result in unpredictable consequences for an intra-Ukraine settlement.
Russia advocates the full and consistent implementation of all the provisions in the Package of Measures. We support the efforts of our Normandy format partners and the OSCE as the coordinator of the Contact Group and urge them to encourage the Ukrainian government to fulfill its obligations in full and as soon as possible.