Crimea and Minsk Agreements: what the British media would not tell? (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)
The recent escalation in eastern Ukraine is again presented in the British media as Russia’s attempt to wage a proxy hybrid war against Kiev’s pro-western leadership. For fear of an eventual improvement in Russia-US relationships they pray for the sanctions against Russia to stay unless the Minsk Agreements are implemented as well as a punishment for the “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”. Let me set the record straight on that.
The coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 backed by the West tore up the constitutional space in Ukraine. The legitimate President of the country was overthrown. It was marked by a severe lack of democracy and violence that posed a direct threat to the well-being of Russian-speaking population of Crimea. Citizens of Crimea, which was an autonomy at the time, faced the choice of becoming an oppressed minority or severing their ties with the hostile regime to secure a future for themselves and their children. The decision to hold a referendum was made by legitimate local authorities. The independence of Crimea was proclaimed and an appeal to enter the Russian Federation was made based on the indisputable results of the popular vote. Standards of international law were fully observed as the right of nations to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter was exercised freely by the Crimeans. Crimea was recognized as an independent and sovereign state by Russia and on 18 March 2014 in Moscow the two countries signed a Treaty of Unification, under which the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol became two new regions - subjects of the Russian Federation.
Let us take a look at the outcome. While entire regions of Ukraine are engulfed in a brutal war, and the population is being fed with shameless nationalist propaganda, the Russian Crimea is enjoying peace, stability and steady growth. What could be a better proof that the decisions made two years ago were the only right ones? We are convinced that many Ukrainians would prefer to live like the residents of Crimea live now - under conditions of stable economic development and social security. That is despite the attempts of the Ukrainian government to disrupt the people’s life there by cutting the peninsula from essential supplies attempting to organize water, energy and food blockades. Does it mean people for sovereignty, rather than sovereignty for people?
Unfortunately, there has been little progress in implementing the Minsk Agreements mainly due to Kiev's unwillingness to fulfill its obligations under them to promote national accord and reconciliation. The recent escalation is clearly an attempt to divert public attention from the poor reform record and request additional funds from their Western sponsors.
For the political solution to be achieved in Ukraine the Minsk Agreements should be fully implemented, including withdrawal of heavy weapons from the contact line. However, the Ukrainian armed forces haven’t stopped shelling Donetsk and Lugansk, including the use of weapons that are supposed to have been withdrawn. This leads to civilian casualties and the destruction of property. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has reported many times the concentration of the Ukrainian forces along the contact line.
According to the Minsk Agreements, signed 2 years ago, on the first day of the withdrawal of artillery Kiev had to engage in dialogue, and start consulting with Donetsk and Lugansk representatives on the conditions for elections to be held on the basis of Ukrainian law and under OSCE oversight. A month after the signing of the Minsk Agreements Kiev was required to enact a special status law adopting a resolution designating the territory that this law was supposed to cover. This hasn't been done. A law was passed, the territories marked, but the law said that it didn't apply to Donetsk and Lugansk!
The Minsk Agreements clearly say elections should be held in accordance with the OSCE criteria, one of which is to ensure that no one will be subjected to intimidation, harassment, etc. The statement by the Kiev authorities on “elections first, then amnesty” constitute a serious distortion of the sequence and logic of what was really agreed. In accordance with the OSCE elections criteria, the amnesty should be granted before the elections.
It is crucial to understand at long last that the only way to settle the Ukrainian crisis is by implementing the Minsk Agreements, which represent a recipe for a political solution well in line with European values. What is required of Kiev is to treat its citizens as partners and abandon the Orwellian “anti-terrorists operation”. One cannot deal with its own citizens with a gun to their head. And this intransigence should cease for the sake of comprehensive reforms in Ukraine, the lack of which is the key source of the present crisis.
The declarations by British officials that sanctions against Russia can only be lifted after we fulfill our obligations according to Minsk treaty is a crude substitution of concept and a prolongation of anti-Russian politics of London.
Russia, together with France and Germany, is a guarantor of Minsk accords, not part of it. The obligations written there are for Kiev and Donbass, in their quality as sides of the treaty and participants of the conflict, to fulfill.