Ukrainian Media Claims Zelensky Quietly Hoping Russia Will Recognise Donbass Breakaways
10:38 GMT 21.02.2022 (Updated: 04:33 GMT 22.02.2022)
Since the signing of the Minsk Agreements in February 2015, Moscow has consistently called for the peaceful reintegration of the Donbass breakaway regions with Ukraine in exchange for broad, constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is hoping Russia will recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, since this would enable him to avoid implementing the political portion of the Minsk Agreements, Strana.ua reports
, citing sources close to the Ukrainian presidential administration.
Kiev has no plans for direct negotiations with the Donbass breakaway regions, and seeks to avoid making changes to Ukraine's Constitution to provide them with a special autonomous status, as required by the Minsk deal, sources say.
"[The administration] considers recognition of the 'republics' by Russia to be a very good option, since this will bury the Minsk Agreements so disliked by the Ukrainian authorities. This is also why Zelensky has no desire to move to advance Minsk II [the 2015 agreement containing the political reform requirements]. On the contrary, there is a desire to drag the process out until Russia recognises the DPR and the LNR and the problem resolves itself", one source indicated.
According to the outlet, Kiev is looking to take advantage of the dramatic escalation in the Donbass area seen in recent days to avoid fulfilling promises recently made to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to move forward with Minsk II.
"The escalation in the Donbass can be used as an excuse to delay the fulfillment of obligations Zelensky gave to Scholz, and to allow him to say that nothing will happen until the situation normalises", one of Strana.ua’s sources noted.
The outlet's sources also confirmed that neither Zelensky nor those close to him seriously believe in the threat of a Russian "invasion" of Ukraine, despite months of claims by Western officials and media citing an "imminent" Russian incursion.
In an interview with RBK Ukraina last week, Zelensky confirmed that the German chancellor and French President Emmanuel Macron had insisted on the Minsk Agreements' implementation. Zelensky characterised the peace deal as "botched" and complained that "it is designed in such a way as to make us weaker from the start, to be in a losing position".
Publicly, however, Zelensky appeared to have assured Scholz and Macron of Kiev's preparedness to continue working on the Minsk Agreements, something mentioned publicly by Macron and recently by Scholz in his talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
"President Zelensky said firmly yesterday that the Trilateral Contact Group, within which the Minsk process is taking place…will soon be presented with all three texts of the envisaged bills – on the status of Ukraine, amendments to the constitution, and preparations for elections. This is good progress to build on", Scholz told reporters last Tuesday following his talks with the Russian president.
Two days later, the self-proclaimed Donbass republics reported a dramatic escalation of shelling, mortar attacks, and sniper fire by Ukrainian forces, culminating in the decision by republican leaders Friday to announce a general mobilisation and to begin the evacuation of their civilian populations to Russia.
President Putin reiterated Russia's position on the conflict in eastern Ukraine on Friday. "The guarantee to restoring peace in Ukraine and relieving tension around this country lies in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic and humanitarian measures to end this conflict. The sooner this happens, the better", Putin said.
Also last week, the Russian Duma approved an appeal to the president asking him to grant Russian recognition to the self-proclaimed Donbass republics. DPR and LPR heads Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik welcomed the move. In his talks with Scholz, Putin stressed that the potential of the Minsk Agreements has not yet been exhausted.
Minsk II was signed in the Belarusian capital on 12 February 2015, after months of heavy fighting between Ukrainian troops and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The civil conflict in Ukraine began in the spring of 2014, when the Ukrainian government sent troops to crush nascent independence movements which sprang up in the aftermath of a US and EU-backed coup d'état in Kiev in February of that year. The subsequent Ukrainian crisis resulted in the most serious deterioration of relations between the West and Russia since the Cold War.