Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Donbass settlement process
A videoconference of the Contact Group for a settlement in Donbass was held on March 26. Regrettably, it ended in failure, as Russia’s representative in the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov described in detail. We would like to discuss some important aspects of this teleconference.
Russia takes seriously its role under the Minsk Package of Measures and the decisions of the summit in the Normandy format that was held in Paris last December. We are actively working with all sides of the conflict – Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev. We are coordinating our actions with Germany and France as members of the Normandy Quartet.
Owing to direct contacts with the Ukrainians, it became possible to launch a settlement process. In February-March of this year, the sides narrowed the gap in their positions on the disengagement of forces and exchange of detainees, began drafting a roadmap and decided in principle to set up a Consultative Council and record the decisions of the Contact Group in written protocols.
The first written protocol with clear-cut tasks for the future was signed by Donetsk, Lugansk, Kiev and the OSCE on March 11 with the personal participation of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak and Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andrei Yermak.
Regrettably, strange things began to happen after the initial breakthrough. During telephone conversations, Berlin and Paris offered different excuses to hedge its support for the Kiev-Donbass agreements. Kiev also renounced these agreements at the Contact Group meeting on March 26. One gets the impression that the Ukrainian negotiators were put up to it. This rollback destroys the initial positive momentum.
Four days later, on March 30, the foreign ministers of German and France made an extensive statement with yet another helping of unfounded accusations against Donbass. They blamed it for slowing down the talks and taking an unconstructive position. All else aside, the ministers demanded that Donetsk and Lugansk grant the OSCE Special Monitoring Group unlimited freedom of movement on their territory. The right of the republics to introduce restrictions due to the coronavirus like Ukraine and other European countries is rejected out of hand. These are dubious democratic values.
All but simultaneously with this statement, Ukrainian representatives in some international organisations, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, accused Russia of ostensibly using the pandemic to get anti-Russian sanctions lifted, for propaganda purposes.
All these events look like a well-orchestrated effort. We hope this is not an attempt to torpedo progress at the talks on overcoming the domestic crisis in Ukraine while blaming Russia and Donbass for the deadlock.
We are urging our Normandy partners to stop the political games and start serious talks on reaching a settlement in Donbass in line with the Minsk Package of Measures and the decisions of the Paris summit of the Normandy Four last December.