13:39 Aug. 27, 2016
Ukrainian political expert Alexander Khara analyzes the Minsk agreements and alternatives for Ukraine
September 5th marks the second anniversary of the first Minsk agreements, a protocol that was signed by the sides of the Donbas conflict – Russia, Ukraine and the Kremlin-backed separatist leaders. OSCE also endorsed the document.
The deal, aimed at imposing an indefinite ceasefire in the region, was violated numerous times afterward. After the signing of the second Minsk document in early February 2016, the Russian-backed separatist forces took control of government-held Debaltseve, directly defying the latest agreements.
Since then, Ukrainian, Russian and separatist ‘reps' have been holding talks in Minsk without any crucial progress towards the settlement of the conflict. Many in Ukraine have criticized the negotiations, calling them unrealistic and even harmful to Ukraine. So far, they haven't been able to stop the violence in the region, let alone the crisis itself.
‘It's obvious that the so-called agreements are not working. Why I said so-called? Simply because from the legal point of view they are null and void. The domestic procedures, needed for them to become a law or a treaty, have not been fulfilled in Kyiv, that's why it's not a legally binding agreement,' - says Alexander Khara, a Ukrainian political expert.
Still, the Minsk agreements remain Europe's only way out of the crisis. According to the deal, certain steps must be taken in order to stop the conflict. Kyiv insists on regaining control of the Ukrainian-Russian border, which is now held by the separatists.
Russia and militants, in turn, demand amnesty, special status for Donbas, which requires changes to Ukraine's Constitution, and local elections. The terms that Ukrainians cannot accept, especially after the Revolution of Dignity, Khara says.
‘Russia wants to, first and foremost, limit our sovereignty with regards to the decision to join NATO and the EU. And secondly, to install their proxies into the political and legal system in Ukraine, which will allow the Kremlin to substantially influence Ukrainian politics. For President Poroshenko it's impossible to fulfill obligations with regards to the changes of Constitution, holding elections and the amnesty. Simply because he doesn't have any substantial support within the Parliament, and the general public is strongly against it', - the expert explains.
Khara claims, Poroshenko's goal is to exhaust Russian resources while trying to reach a compromise. Meanwhile, the situation in the war-torn region remains violent. Both Ukraine and the militants report of dozens of ceasefire violations every day.
Negotiators in Minsk are still working on a plan of the withdrawal of the warring sides. The Normandy Four format, which includes the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France also cannot reach a compromise on key issues. That's why the United States must be a part of the negotiations, the analyst says.
‘Germany and France failed to find an agreement with Russia, because it's too complicated and it's not just regarding Ukraine, but also Syria and other issues. We see the great game of Russia against the West and Ukraine is just a tool. Without the US it's impossible to reach an agreement with Russians. President Putin is willing to restore its geopolitical status, and one of the signs of such a status is direct talks with the US President, and not Poroshenko, who according to Putin is not legal and is running not even a country,' - Khara states.
He adds, Putin hopes to set things straight with the US on many issues, including Ukraine, without the involvement of other countries. However, the US is not a part of the Normandy Format, and it's unknown whether Washington will join in the future.
So what are the alternatives for Ukraine? Khara has a recipe how to solve the crisis. He says, the West must strengthen its allies in the region, provide military support for Ukraine, including equipment, intelligence and political support.
‘It's crucial to mention that the West needs to confirm that Ukraine will be a member of NATO, should we fulfill the obligations and the people of Ukraine decide to do so, because it's one of the reasons Putin is waging this war against us,' – the expert assumes.
Concluding his points, Khara says that pressure on Russia must be increased. Combining all methods, including the sanctions, Ukraine and the West could put an end to this conflict.