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    Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L-R) pose for a family photo at the presidential residence in Minsk

    Kiev's Peace Trap: Why the Minsk Agreements May Outlast the Ukrainian Government

    © AFP 2016/ Pool/Grigory Dukor
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    Two years ago, between February 11-12, 2015, the leaders of Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine met in the Belarusian capital to sign Minsk II, a deal meant to forge a lasting end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Two years on, Ukraine expert Rostislav Ishchenko explains why the agreement may actually outlive the current authorities in Kiev.

    Saturday and Sunday mark the solemn anniversary of the Minsk agreements. Despite a series of violations of the ceasefire regime in the past weeks and months, most recently near the town of Avdiivka, the deal reached at Minsk has held, and a resumption of full-out hostilities across the front has been avoided. 

    According to Ukrainian political observer and RIA Novosti contributor Rostislav Ishchenko, the deal has held despite repeated efforts to declare it dead. It has held even in spite of Kiev's efforts to sabotage it, according to the commentator, and actually "has a good chance of even outlasting the [current Ukrainian] government."

    Tanks from the Ukrainian Forces are stationed outside a building in the flashpoint eastern town of Avdiivka that sits just north of the pro-Russian rebels' de facto capital of Donetsk on February 2, 2017
    © AFP 2016/ Aleksey FILIPPOV
    Tanks from the Ukrainian Forces are stationed outside a building in the flashpoint eastern town of Avdiivka that sits just north of the pro-Russian rebels' de facto capital of Donetsk on February 2, 2017

    Minsk's resilience comes down to several factors, the expert noted. Chief among them is the fact that the text of the agreement was agreed at meetings of the Normandy four –a grouping including Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. At the same time, the agreement itself was actually signed by Kiev and representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Adding another layer of complexity is the fact that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko participated in the Minsk negotiations, but did not sign the final text, since Kiev does not officially recognize the DPR and LPR, or believe in negotiating with its representatives.

    In other words, Ishchenko explained that "the agreement was written by one group of states, but others have been mandated to carry it out. At the same time, one of the parties to the agreement (Kiev) does not recognize the other (the DPR/LPR) as a party to the negotiations process."

    Russia, France and Germany have each stepped out as guarantors for Minsk's implementation; their ultimate aim is the de-escalation of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. "The guarantor countries, as well as the DPR and the LPR, consider the conflict to have a civil character," Ishchenko recalled. "Ukraine's official position, meanwhile, is that the conflict was provoked by Russian aggression."

    Accordingly, even at the level of negotiations, the positions of the parties diverge on several crucial issues, including a) the conflict's character (i.e. civil war vs. foreign aggression) b) the designation of its direct participants and c) the purpose of the agreement itself.

    Minsk, Ishchenko recalled, is not the first peace plan involving Russia in the post-Soviet space. Other agreements include the settlement on Transnistria (which broke off from Moldova in 1990) and the Karabakh (a territory disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the late 1980s).

    In these cases, the analyst noted, it proved "possible to achieve a sustainable long-term cease-fire and the transfer of the conflict from the military to the political format. This has been the case even though the front line in Karabakh sees the occasional flare-up, and the parties threaten one another regularly. It has also been the case even though Chisinau periodically talks about 'returning' Transnistria by force, and has engaged in economic and transport blockades of the breakaway territory."

    Armenian artillery is seen near Nagorno-Karabakh's town of Martuni, April 8, 2016
    © REUTERS/ Staff
    Armenian artillery is seen near Nagorno-Karabakh's town of Martuni, April 8, 2016

    However, comparing the settlements in Karabakh and Transnistria with what's happening in Donbass would not be entirely appropriate, Ishchenko noted, since the Minsk agreements haven't been able to stop the fighting completely, even if it has brought full-scale conflict to a standstill. 

    According to the expert, the problem can be traced back to the fact that Kiev doesn't recognize the Donbass republics as legitimate parties to be negotiated with. In fact, Ishchenko suggested, Kiev has urged Russia to stop supporting the breakaways, and "transfer control of the borders" to the Ukrainian side, as agreed in point nine of Minsk II's thirteen points. "Then, Kiev could quickly 'resolve' the issue militarily," or the logic goes. In other words, Ishchenko noted, "from the start, Kiev saw Minsk II merely as a form of political and diplomatic assistance to help 'solve' the conflict by force." 

    In this situation, the analyst suggested that it would be difficult to expect a sustainable settlement, or even a lasting ceasefire. "If it were up to Kiev alone, Minsk would have gone to the scrap heap long ago." The problem for Ukrainian authorities, he added, is that the agreement was signed not between Kiev and the Donbass, but effectively 'imposed' by Moscow, Berlin and Paris, which were searching for ways to reduce tensions between Russia and Europe.

    Compared to Syria, which Ishchenko believes is the focal point of a global confrontation between Moscow and its opponents, whose configuration continues to fluctuate, the Ukrainian crisis is a sideshow. Whoever loses in Syria will find it pointless to continue their involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, the analyst stressed, since the country will effectively turn into a "black hole devouring scarce resource without providing any returns." Consequently, the 'loser' will seek to extricate their country from the conflict.

    Donetsk after shelling
    © Sputnik/ Irina Gerashchenko
    Donetsk after shelling

    "And this is exactly what Europe and the US are now doing," the analyst noted. "Even the expected attempts by the Trump administration to haggle over the terms of the US stopping to play an active role in Ukraine will be simply an attempt to minimize the damage inflicted on the US materially and on its image…"

    As far as the agreement's domestic impact for Ukraine, Ishchenko recalled that "the Minsk agreements were consciously written in such a way that an attempt to actually implement them would lead to a confrontation between the oligarchic government in Kiev and its armed ultra-nationalist base of support." Accordingly, "the longer and more actively Kiev attempts to maneuver in the international arena, the stronger these maneuvers will stimulate domestic contradictions," compounded by the worsening political and socio-economic situation in the country.

    Ultimately, the analyst wrote that if Minsk does lead to the current government's collapse, "any government that comes to [take its place], if it is to have any semblance of representing all Ukrainians, will have to swear allegiance to the Minsk accords." In the expert's view, Minsk's total "rejection could occur only if the Ukrainian state itself were to disappear. In such a case, given the absence of one of the subjects to the negotiations process, it would be necessary to acknowledge the fundamental change to the Ukrainian crisis, and begin to develop a new international mechanism for its localization and settlement."

    Related:

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    Lugansk Republic Accuses Kiev of Shelling Its Territory 11 Times
    Donbass: Deal-Breaker for the New Détente?
    'West Begins to Understand True Nature' of Kiev Amid Donbass Escalation - Lavrov
    Donetsk Authorities Blame Ukrainian Special Services for Militia Commander Death
    No Alternatives to Minsk Deal on Ukraine - President Putin
    US Should Supply Ukraine With Lethal Defensive Weapons - Breedlove
    'People of Donetsk Are Fighting for Survival' - Czech Witness
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    Tags:
    geopolitical analysis, civil war, Minsk agreements, geopolitics, analysis, Lugansk People's Republic, Donetsk People’s Republic, Ukrainian Armed Forces, Petro Poroshenko, Germany, Ukraine, France
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    • avatar
      michael
      as in the classic line; intelligence (or the tools of it) are wasted on some people. :)
    • avatar
      Tim - USA
      marcanhalt, LOL, your comment is hilarious and made my day !!!
      You have a great sense of humor. Looking at some of the other comments here I get the impression that some people don't know what you are talking about so I will try to explain it without getting it removed by the Sputnik moderators if that is possible. I will know soon enough so here it goes;

      During the photo-op Porky ripped a loud and smelly one and is trying to play innocent. Of course this is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior on Porky's part. Everyone in the room is trying to distance themselves from Porky's release. Lukashenko is merely giving Porky directions to the mens room so he can wipe. The picture does not lie and is very obvious what happened.
    • avatar
      marcanhalt
      corlemmers, Did you read the earlier article by Sputnik's Editor-in-Chief, where she addresses the UN spokesperson on behalf of the BBC, The Guardian, The Independant and the CIA? It is a spoof letter to be sure that RT and Sputnik are a political and military propaganda outlet for Russia. She needles the CIA by saying to them that if you produce conclusions without facts, most people will believe you. If you produce meaningless articles, like RT and Sputnik are, ostensibly, doing, you can keep people thinking the world is square not round. Hence, I decided to take advantage of the shadow of her argument and feed off the first thought I had. We will see, one way or another, if she is right.
    • avatar
      marcanhalt
      corlemmers, I told you, "one way or another", we would see that she was right. All of these "negatives" prove that the mindset she was talking about can spill over onto those who believe "the earth is square, not round." You gotta love it!
    • avatar
      marcanhalt
      You get the impression that in the "family photo" that everyone else, except Porky. knows that 'it was him' and not somebody else that 'did it'? Look at all the body language that is saying. "It WAS you! We all heard it!" Lukashenko leaves no doubt that "You either stop doing that, or you are out of the picture!" What followed was just another broken promise...
    • avatar
      marcanhaltin reply tomichael(Show commentHide comment)
      michael, Cool, man! You know what is worse than 10 waste baskets in the same closet? Eleven of them.
    • avatar
      marcanhaltin reply toTim - USA(Show commentHide comment)
      Tim - USA, Thanks, Tim! There was no offense intended with all the negatives involved, it is just that some people don't have great writers like you and I!
    • avatar
      marcanhaltin reply togrimm(Show commentHide comment)
      grimm, "Grin"
    • avatar
      michaelin reply tomarcanhalt(Show commentHide comment)
      marcanhalt, :)
    • NATOisEVIL
      Poroshenko is an evil war criminal who kills children and women because they speak Russian,
    • avatar
      Erik Trete
      Kiev cannot win militarily, if they could, they would have already. Kiev is living hand to mouth on IMF handouts as the country's debt spirals out of control and the economy spirals down the drain. People cannot afford to heat their flats and feed themselves. This situation cannot last long. One can only wonder if the recent flareup; the fighting being done predominately by the "volunteer" units is intended to shift the neo-nazis from Kiev and thin their ranks before things really start to fall apart. East Europe should prepare themselves to either provide a lot of economic aid or to absorb a lot of Ukrainian economic refugees.
    • avatar
      marcanhaltin reply tocorlemmers(Show commentHide comment)
      corlemmers, Remember what I said, the far worst thing you can find in a closet is being ten empty waste baskets, is to find 11 of them.
    • avatar
      Tim - USAin reply totobi.gelando(Show commentHide comment)
      tobi.gelando, Hi Tobi, I request that you look at marcanhalt reply to me closer to the bottom of this page (not my comment directly below michael). What he said was humorous to me and those of us that "read between the lines" but might have been misunderstood and appear cryptic by some as you have indicated. In my opinion it is best to ask the commentator for clarification if some question arises as that makes for a good community.

      Have a nice day

      Tim
    • avatar
      Donny
      The article says: the Agreement was signed by Kiev & representatives of Donbass. Then it says: Poroshenko didn't sign it because Kiev doesn't acknowledge Donbass. If I remember correctly France, Holland & Russia met many times, came together on something and took it to Minsk. It took working through the night (the 'on ground' status in Debaltseve for instance) but they got Kiev & Donbass to agree and sign. I am confused.
    • avatar
      ivanwa88
      Donny you are using poetic license it does not say that it states confusingly that he didn't sign the final text stating Kiev did sign the main document but 'Porky' himself did not sign a addendum or the final text as they put it below..But it was signed by a Kiev official? meaning the Ukraine government. Likely to have been the PM.

      At the same time, the agreement itself was actually signed by Kiev and representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Adding another layer of complexity is the fact that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko participated in the Minsk negotiations, but did not sign the final text, since Kiev does not officially recognize the DPR and LPR, or believe in negotiating with its representatives.
    • avatar
      Donny
      Thank you ivan. I wasn't clear. I am confused and don't have the answer to the question: Did Kiev (the new Ukraine government in Kiev) sign Minsk II or not?
    • avatar
      ivanwa88
      As some comments on the photo were well of the mark,its more like someone accusing another in the group of sleeping with his wife. The rest are going WHO?
    • avatar
      ivanwa88
      Donny yes how otherwise would the whole point of the article be relevant; Kiev's Peace Trap: Why the Minsk Agreements May Outlast the Ukrainian Government.
    • avatar
      Donny
      ivan, I agree about the outlasting the Ukrainian Government part. Last question: Why then say: Petro Porshenko participated in the Minsk negotiations, but did not sign the final text (the final text is the Minsk II Agreement) ‘since’ Kiev does not officially recognize the (Donbass)? That means to the new Ukrainian government it is not an 'official' document. There is a Minsk II Agreement but it is not 'official'.
    • avatar
      tobi.gelandoin reply toTim - USA(Show commentHide comment)
      Tim - USA,
      I agree with you in full.... But what can we do !!! Ignore him !!!
      So as Cor lemmers well he is a small Union man and think he has to do a bit for his boss !!! he has only news from the media Telegraaf !!!
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