Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in connection with the Paris Normandy format summit’s anniversary
Kiev’s continued reluctance to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures and the Normandy format agreements, and Berlin and Paris’ connivance with the Ukrainian authorities’ destructive policy are a cause for concern.
One year ago today, on December 9, 2019, at the Normandy summit in Paris, the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine reiterated that there was no alternative to the Minsk agreements as the basis for resolving the conflict in Donbass and outlined seven priority steps to be taken by Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. It included observing the ceasefire, separating forces, demining, exchanging detainees, opening contact line checkpoints, coordinating the legal aspects of Donbass’ special status with the inclusion of the Steinmeier formula in Ukrainian legislation, which determines the procedure for the gradual entry into force of the special status.
Kiev and Donbass were expected to implement this programme in four months. In April, another Normandy summit was supposed to come up with more steps to implement the Package of Measures. However, even after a year, only two of the seven Paris decisions have been implemented, and only partially. In July, following persistent resistance from Ukraine, additional measures to consolidate the ceasefire went into effect, which had been largely distorted or disavowed by Kiev unilaterally by September. At present, the ceasefire is being somewhat observed only because Donbass is not responding to Ukraine’s shelling and violations of other measures. Two detainee exchanges have taken place, in December 2019 and in April 2020. But in fact, Kiev failed to clear all of these individuals, which is why some people may be arrested again.
There is no progress on the other Paris decisions. Kiev continues to replace practical work with going through the motions and a feigned constructive approach. The opening of the Shchastye and Zolotoye checkpoints in the Lugansk region in early November is a case in point. Throughout the year, Kiev has been slowing this process, has refused to provide security guarantees, and has kept the OSCE and Lugansk in the dark about the work underway on its territory. As a result, it built crossings only for pedestrians, knowing full well that Lugansk was preparing vehicle crossings that are critical for humanitarian aid deliveries.
The situation is about the same with other Paris directives. The political aspects are in the worst shape. Ukraine has still done nothing on agreements with Donbass on all aspects of a political settlement, including making the Steinmeier formula part of the law on the special status of Donbass, which expires on December 31. Representatives of Ukraine refuse to provide even general outlines for the future status of Donbass. Even if Kiev formally renews the current law, this will again be done without the aforementioned formula or any other agreed to special status, as provided for by the Minsk agreements and the Paris summit decisions.
A resolution adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in July on holding local elections in Ukraine, except Donbass, came as a major irritant that blocked the Contact Group’s activities. The conditions that the parliamentarians put forward for Donetsk and Lugansk grossly violate the Package of Measures. To get beyond the impasse, Donbass suggested that Kiev agree on an action plan for the deputies in the vein of the Minsk agreements, and provided a draft of this document. In response, Kiev presented its Plan of Joint Steps which to an even greater degree trampled on the Package of Measures, and ignored the proposals advanced by Donbass. In the Contact Group, the representatives of Ukraine came up with an absurd proposal for recognising as “non-existent” the project introduced by Donbass and officially received by Ukraine.
Unfortunately, Ukraine's destructive actions did not elicit a proper response from the settlement co-sponsors, namely, Germany and France. Doubts about the sincerity of their intentions to help overcome the Ukraine crisis were confirmed by their efforts to disrupt the Arria-formula meeting of the UN Security Council on December 2, which was dedicated to implementing the Minsk agreements, in which representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk took part. Fearful of hearing the truth, Germany, France, Ukraine and a number of other countries refused to participate in this meeting.
Admittedly, the situation that we witnessed after the Normandy summit in Berlin in 2016 is here again. It took Kiev more than three years to implement only some of its decisions, and this was only possible after the presidential and parliamentary elections. We hope that this time France and Germany will help convince our Ukrainian partners of the need to implement a simple set of practical steps that are clearly outlined in the Package of Measures and the decisions of the Normandy format summit in Paris, through a direct dialogue with representatives of certain regions of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.