Lean Peace. Why Ukraine is not fulfilling its Minsk-2 obligations regarding Donbass?

The article translated below was published in Argumenty i Fakty on the 12th of February 2016.

The title of the article is reference to a Russian proverb: Lean peace is better than a good strife (or the English proverb Better a lean peace than a fat victory).

Headlines for related articles (in Russian) are also quite telling:

February the 12th marks one year of “Minsk-2” – Donbass agreements, concluded after a night of negotiations of leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. Kiev is still not in a hurry to fulfilling its obligations.

Meanwhile, as “AiF” discovered, the residents of Donbass still have to go to work over the minefields.

They are still shooting

The main condition for the implementation of the Minsk agreements still remains a complete cease-fire, however not even a full “regime of silence” was ever established in the Donbass. The OCSE mission report clearly states: shooting goes on. Only on the 2nd of February there were recorded “514 explosions of uncertain origin”, “more than 100 firing bursts from heavy machine guns” and “more than 1,000 rounds of small arms at a distance of 3-5 km to the west of the observers’ position in a controlled by DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) railway station in Donetsk”.

The shootings already gave Kiev a pretext to close 2 checkpoints over the line of contact. For residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republic it is worse than the shootings. First, it is becoming increasingly difficult to legally “cross the border”. Second, the economic blockade of Donbass, which according to “Minsk-2” should have been removed, is on the contrary only strengthened.

“The pensioners who can not receive a pension are affected the most. Vehicles carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies are blockaded. All this is nothing more than a continuation of the genocide of the people of Donbass by the Ukrainian government,” – Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence of DPR, tells AiF. He believes that Kiev at the same time achieves another goal – protecting the Ukrainians from the truth about the life in the republics: “This is due to the significant difference in prices on the main categories of foods in the border regions of Ukraine and the DPR. Bread, milk, vegetables and potatoes, cereals and other products are cheaper in Donetsk than in Ukraine.” By the way, peaceful life – in spite of the disruptions of water supply and the economic blockade – is really getting back on track. Kindergartens, schools, hospitals, shops, cafes and restaurants are working. Factories have started up. For example, “Stirol”, one of the flagships of the chemical industry of Donbass, has again been started. And this means jobs and wages. The main problem – the sale of produce in the conditions of a blockade. However, entrepreneurs engaged in the installation of windows have no problems of this kind – after the war, the demand for their services is highest ever.

We must understand that the lives of many ordinary people, who find themselves on opposite sides of the demarcation line, is associated with the “enemy” territory in spite of the blockade. From DPR and LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) people go “abroad” not only for pensions, but also to work. Thus, the press service of the OSCE mission said that the residents of the two villages near Gorlovka literally have to go across a minefield due to the closure of the checkpoint “Zaytsevo”: “They go on the mines to get to the controlled by Kiev Artemovsk, otherwise they run the risk of losing the jobs.” Not everything is simple with the pensions either. Some pensioners registered on the territory controlled by Kiev, and they cross the checkpoint every month to get the payments. But there are many of those who did not go to a compromise, and still can not get a pension. Dmitry Popov, manager of the Ombudsman of the DPR apparatus tells AiF that Kiev ignores the decisions of the Ukrainian(!) Courts regarding paying overdue pensions to the pensioners, who reside on the territory of the republic. Almost 15000 pensioners of Donbass prepared a lawsuits for the Ukrainian courts to recognize the Presidential Decree for the non-payment of pensions as illegal. Some of the lawsuits were satisfied by the courts of the first instance. Kiev said that while Ukrainian banks, treasury and financial management is not operating on the territory of DPR and LPR, the implementation of the decision impossible. However, they do not operate here not at the whim of the authorities of DPR and LPR, but because of the blockade of Kiev, which no one is intending to lift until the political issues are solved.

Why do they not want to agree?

Strictly speaking, all of the Minsk process has stalled on two points: the special status of Donbass (and related amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine), and the local elections on the territory of the DPR and LPR. Rada deputies, ignoring the “Minsk-2” agreement, did not vote for the amendments and moved the issue to the next session. Rather than comply with the requirements of Paris, Berlin, Moscow and even Washington, with regard to the ratification of such amendments, the deputies adopted some other amendments – regarding the rules of procedure of Parliament. Apparently, it is these subtleties of Ukrainian parliamentarism, which allow Kiev to sabotage the “Minsk-2”, that President Poroshenko was explaining last week to Angela Merkel in Berlin. Or perhaps he honestly admitted that he simply does not have enough votes in the parliament to fulfil his commitments.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested a possible compromise on the 19th of January, and it was later supported by Boris Gryzlov, the Russian representative in the contact group on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine. “According to «Steinmeier’s formula», you first need to hold elections in Donbass, and then use the emerging legitimate authorities for approval of the constitutional reform and other laws. But neither the Parliament, nor Poroshenko are yet ready for this,” said Konstantin Bondarenko, head of the Foundation “Ukrainian politics”. “Meanwhile the West is already barely holding back its irritation with Kiev’s policy as it is suffering from the sanctions not less than Russia. And if the ball does not get rolling on the implementation of the Minsk agreements, then, taking into account the forthcoming elections in their countries, Hollande and Merkel will try to demonstrate to Ukraine that if it will not abide by the agreement, then no one will talk to it.”

Not only the procedural matters complicate the situation with the local elections: Kiev demands that voting takes place according to the party lists, with the resumption of broadcasting (read – propaganda) of the Ukrainian TV channels for the whole of Donbass, while the Republics insist on elections by the majority system. If the West recognizes the elections, the Kiev regime will no longer be able to talk to Donbass using the language of force, consider these territories as occupied, and blame everything on Russia… “Kiev will be playing for time for another six months, while Donbass will continue the construction of its statehood, which sooner or later everyone will have to recognise. At the same time Donbass will be restoring its economy, which is quite powerful and self-supporting.” – said political analyst Sergei Mikheev.