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2015/09/18 09:30

682896Within a day of the successful negotiations, or so it seemed at the time to the o cial speakers of all parties, of the Normandy Four and the Contact Group in Minsk, the offensive of pro-Russian illegal military formations on the position of the armed forces of Ukraine over Debalcevo began. As a result, the Ukrainian army, suffering losses in manpower and machinery, abandoned this populated locality, which was strategically important from a military point of view, and retreated to a new defensive line. The battle for Debalcevo was the first, but indisputable evidence nonetheless, that Russia is not going to adhere to the 13-point agreement reached on 12 February 2015 – referred to as Minsk II.

First, on the day it was signed by the representatives of the Contact Group, the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements was approved by the leaders of the Normandy Four, as unequivocally recorded in the Declaration adopted by the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, France and the German Chancellor. Second, on 17 February 2015 the UN Security Council unanimously, on Russia’s initiative, adopted resolution No 2202 on Ukraine, annexed by the document signed in Minsk. It is worth noting by the way, that this is the only agreement since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, despite the dozens of meetings. Even the initiative for the establishment of a military tribunal to investigate the crash of the Malaysian aircra MN17 was voted down by Russia, exercising its power of veto.

Thus, in the presence of the political will of all parties involved, as of 17 February 2015, the necessary international legal framework for a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis, inspired by Russia in Donbass, was taken. However, Debalcevo and further developments at the front have shown a lack of desire by Russia to adhere to Minsk II. Over the past 7 months, there has not been a single day without gunfire, military clashes, deaths and/or injuries to hundreds of civilians and military in Donbass or other provocative actions from the Russian side.1 Key points of Minsk II – the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, exchange of prisoners according to the formula “all for all” – are not ful lled by Russia.

Meanwhile, attention is drawn to the following two points:

1. a targeted campaign in the Russian media and o cial speakers accusing Ukraine of disrupting the performance of the Minsk agreements;

2. the attempts of some representatives of Ukraine’s European partners to force Kiev to show initiative in unilaterally carrying out other parts of the Minsk II agreement, relating to constitutional reform, elections, amnesty, the socioeconomic situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbass. is is the wrong approach and cannot be accepted under any circumstances by Ukrainian society.

Why did this happen? As evidenced by the practice used in settling many other military conflicts, there are three types of circumstances that are necessary to achieve peace:

1. Military defeat (surrender) of the army of one of the warring parties. The First and the Second World Wars are clear examples of such cases.

2. Depletion of resources of both warring parties as a result of an extended military confrontation. The ten-year Iran-Iraq war is a perfect example of this type of circumstance.

3. Effective pressure on all the warring parties, but primarily on the aggressor, by the international community. Termination of the Balkan wars has been achieved precisely because of tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from the US, EU and other civilised countries.

None of the three scenarios above have yet occurred in the crisis initiated by Russia in Donbass. Moreover, Russia has not achieved at least three strategic objectives of its current leadership:

First, it has absolutely no guarantees from any state in the world or any international organisation with respect to the hypothetical recognition of the annexation of the Crimea or adoption of the de facto situation that has developed following the signing of agreements on the accession of the Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation.

Second, the United States refused to enter into talks with Russia on a new division of spheres of influence in the world that would take into account the neo-imperial ambitions of Moscow. ird, Ukraine is not destroyed, on the contrary – it remains a viable state, capable of, under certain conditions (reforms, consolidation of political elites, support by the international community), becoming a success story of democracy, which in itself provides a threat to the regime of Vladimir Putin.

Currently, if we look at the different scenarios which might develop in Donbass in the short term, two are most likely:

1. the continuation of armed clashes of varying intensity without significant changes in the frontline;

2. an attempt to hold large-scale military offensive operations of powerful groups, mainly consisting of different groups of Russian (mercenaries, vacationers, official staff), and under the command of Russian staff officers, with the aim of seizing large areas of the left-bank Ukraine.

Implementation of either of these two scenarios are not in the national interests of Ukraine as this could inevitably lead to further military and civilian casualties, as well as using considerable resources that are otherwise needed to carry out reforms and modernise the country. However, the rst scenario is perfectly acceptable to Russia, and the second, under certain conditions (a well-planned provocation, allowing it to accuse Kiev of escalation), may be regarded by the Kremlin as a way to put pressure on Ukraine and the West, and allow it to assist in the achievement of a “peaceful settlement” with the conditional name of Minsk III, which would be beneficial to the Kremlin.

In the current state of political and diplomatic contacts (between Moscow and Kiev, Moscow and Washington, as well as key European capitals), the current de jure Minsk II and the condition of the armies and economies of Russia and Ukraine, one should not expect either peace or large-scale war in the short term. However, it should also be kept in mind that the state of permanent instability itself may not last forever, and the ghting itself will not stop. Sooner or later, in the absence of progress in the search for a comprehensive settlement mechanism, sporadic clashes will escalate into a large-scale bloody war, as a way to  achieve the objectives pursued by the Kremlin.

So what to do next, in a bid to lead Ukraine out of the impasse into which it is pushed by Putin’s Russia? For now it is quite obvious that the so-called Minsk II agreement has suffered the same fate as its predecessor Minsk I which ended abruptly a er the encirclement of Ilovaysk.2 None of the parties performs any single point of the said agreements. At a stretch, it could be said that certain provisions of the document have been partly ful lled. us, there is every reason to con rm the failure of Minsk II and the need for Ukraine to refuse to perform them under any pretext (another attempt of attack, a massive bombardment of the civilian population, etc.).

In order to avoid a large-scale war which will involve large groups of Russian armed forces, there is an urgent need to find a replacement for the discredited Normandy and Minsk talk formats. Th best option is a full-scale peace conference with the participation of the world’s leading countries – an initiative announced on 5 August 2015 by the newly elected President of Poland Andrzej Duda. The most comfortable international grounds which would be used for the substantive discussion of this initiative is the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. President Poroshenko has been announced as one of the speakers, and not to take advantage of this opportunity would be unforgivable. Even more so, as the list includes the leaders of the United States, China, Poland, France, Russia and other major countries.

Given the fact that President Putin has not achieved any of his objectives, this is likely to receive a cool reception from the Kremlin (as in the case of the initiative concerning the tribunal). However, the main task of Ukraine is to force Russia to support it in the short term, from 6 months to a year, under the pressure of circumstances. To do this measures have to be implemented on the domestic and foreign fronts.

On the domestic front a strategy to resolve the crisis which has arisen in connection with the aggression of Russia against Ukraine must be developed, approved and implemented. This strategy might be based on the document published on 5 March 2015 to resolve the crisis in the east of Ukraine; the document was prepared by the Coalition of Patriotic Forces of Donbass, which includes 17 public organisations from Donetsk and Luhansk regions³

This document should be based on the idea of a victory for Ukraine in the hybrid war waged against it by Russia, by using hybrid methods against the aggressor. Key challenges which should be addressed:

• recognition of territories temporarily not controlled by Ukraine, de jure occupied by the Russian Federation, with entailing consequences;

• creating conditions for the reintegration of internally displaced persons from the occupied territories;

• cessation of all trade and economic activities with the entities of the occupied territories;

• recognition of DNR/LNR as terrorist organisations and ceasing any contact with their “official” representatives;

• introduction of martial law in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions;

• introduction of full-sectoral sanctions against Russia;

• changes in public opinion in the occupied territories by creating a loyal system of passes, preferential treatment for entrance to universities, access to medicine, opening of preferential credit lines for the purchase of housing and businesses, providing jobs, etc.;

• creation of a separate ministry or agency responsible for implementation of the strategy, including the work with internally displaced persons;

• other measures of an economic, humanitarian, informational, and other nature, including security. After the development of this Strategy, the Government of Ukraine would have all the necessary grounds for attracting financial and other resources from international financial institutions and partner countries for its implementation.

On the foreign front – a complex of measures aimed at consolidating the international community around the problem of stopping the aggression by Russia, namely:

• collecting and bringing to the attention of the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and the democratic countries of the world evidence of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, and supplies to illegal armed groups of all kinds of Russian weapons;

• documenting and informing the international community of each case of capture of Russian troops, voluntary surrender of representatives of illegal military formations, provocations against the civilian population with the use of weapons prohibited by Minsk II, attempts of offensive operations

• increasing diplomatic efforts,  aimed at ensuring the expansion of economic sanctions and the transition from the personal to the sectoral (energy, chemical industry, engineering, finance), as well as disconnecting the Russian banking system from SWIFT;

• introduction of political saEvery step taken by Russia to escalate the situation in Ukraine should be used as a pretext to increase pressure from the international community. At the same time, Ukraine itself should be at the forefront, the first to introduce more and more new economic and political sanctions against Russia, up to a complete shutdown of trade, economic and diplomatic relations;

• lowering the level of diplomatic relations as a result of the escalation of the conflict;

• depriving Russia of the right to vote in the UN Security Council.

Every step taken by Russia to escalate the situation in Ukraine should be used as a pretext to increase pressure from the international community. At the same time, Ukraine itself should be at the forefront, the first to introduce more and more new economic and political sanctions against Russia, up to a complete shutdown of trade, economic and diplomatic relations.

Only after bringing Russia to the point where it is can no longer finance the war in the Donbass region, containing the situation in Crimea and Donbass, as well as fulfilling the socioeconomic functions of the state in the country, causing considerable discontent among the population, will it be possible to seat the Russian leadership at the table, no matter round or square, for real classic negotiations on a comprehensive settlement of the crisis initiated by the Kremlin. is negotiating agenda should contain issues relating not only to the unconditional resumption of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including the return of the Crimea and Sevastopol, but also the creation of an international legal mechanism (tribunal) to investigate all war crimes and crimes against humanity, return of refugees and internally displaced persons, reintegration and reconciliation, renewal of damaged infrastructure, de nition of the scope and schedule of payment of reparations and other issues that must be addressed in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement and lasting peace.

¹ The so-called DNI/LNR (Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic respectively) have no independent role in the confl ict, being completely under the control of the Kremlin, and executing the scripts conceived and approved in Russia.
² Entrapment of Ukrainian Armed Forces, which had been tasked to liberate the city of Ilovaysk, as a result of the invasion of the territory of Ukraine by more than 4,000 Russian armed forces on the night of 25 August 2015, which changed the balance of power and caused signifi cant loss of personnel and equipment. Link to the detailed report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Armed Forces of Ukraine:
4 It involved about 400 fi ghters, 10 tanks and 10 armoured vehicles.