23 October 2016

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OpinionNo compromise

The statements by foreign ministers of France and Germany voiced during their visit to Ukraine caused quite a stir among both Russian and Ukrainian politicians and experts. The Kremlin elite openly declared the victory of Russian diplomacy (or, better say, the power of the Russian weapons), claiming that Berlin and Paris have taken the side of Moscow and demand from Poroshenko to fulfill immediately the political part of the Minsk agreements. That is, to legalize Russian militants through elections and to grant a special status to the occupied Donbas. Allegedly, the Kremlin pledged, although it publicly denied it, to ensure sustainable truce on the demarcation line. Later, the value of the Kremlin's words was once again reflected in the reports on the attacks against the  Ukrainian forces.

Such statements of Ukraine’s European friends may have several reasons. First of all, France and Germany are in anticipation of the upcoming elections, and it is likely that Minsk-2 signees won’t be re-elected. And in order to increase their electoral chances at home, they desperately need progress in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Of course, internal calm is much more important for the European public, but in this case, it is rather a matter of prestige and international influence of the European Union’s locomotives. If there is no progress in Donbas, it turns ou that "Putin once again beat them all," as they say in Russia. Meaning, signatures of the leaders of Germany and France are worthless...

In addition, we must not forget that Russia is a global player, which has much more points of contact and topics of talks with the West than just negotiations on the occupied Crimea and Donbas. Russian troops in Syria, flirting with the Turks not in favor of the EU, programs of arms proliferation or their build-up, and economic cooperation – they all play their role... The list is long.

Amid fatigue in France and Germany from the the war in Donbas, they want to move forward at least a bit. Hence, the statements about the need to adopt an "Election Law" for the uncontrolled part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In fact, there is nothing bad about the elections, and if there was anything like a fair vote, then the Kremlin’s appointees would get the heave-ho in an absolutely democratic fashion. They would be limited to a happy life in Russian state dachas and hold conferences like an "Impact of Novorossiya on international politics", so to speak, spending the loot. We should not forget that the Kremlin has created its own clone in Donbas, only without oil. And the elections are only needed to legalize the prolongation of their proximity to cash flows. The latest example is the election to the State Duma, where the Kremlin will have a constitutional majority, which, if it is ever needed to vote for the annexation of northern Kazakhstan, will support such an absurd move with the votes of all 450 newly elected Russian deputies.

The Minsk Agreement state that the election law must be agreed with the representatives of  the occupied areas of Donbas. What does the Kremlin want, and what is voiced by militants and collaborators? A vote by Ukrainian law but without the Ukrainian parties, solely in single-mandate constituencies, and without the Ukrainian media coverage. Of course, that’s the specially trained people from the Russian election commission that are to count the votes, rather than Ukrainian electoral commission. There should be not a single candidate from among the former Donetsk elite, who have not caved in under the new masters. Convoys of trucks with the humanitarian aid from Akhmetov's funds shall not be taken into account. Competitors are not allowed. Otherwise, they are killed.

Russia did not and does not intend to go back to the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine

The main objective of the Minsk agreements is to restore control over the Ukrainian-Russian border and to return Luhansk and Donetsk to the Ukrainian family. Such elections make this impossible. Moscow Protectorate will just be reinstated officially. Kyiv will have no leverage in the region. Russian influence will continue to prevail in the east of Ukraine.

Russia did not and does not intend to go back to the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. Moreover, through its designated "officials" it will announce yet another wishlist - non-aligned status, federalization of Ukraine, a special status for the Russian language. There is one goal - not to give Ukraine an opportunity to develop and to bring it back into the swamp of being stuck between East and West.

With all due respect to our friends from the European Union, the question arises: what’s in it for Ukraine? No dominant team in Kyiv will ever fall for this option, even when a new president is elected. The Kremlin intends to play a long game, clearly realizing that in the current political scenario in Ukraine, nobody will go for such "settlement". But, even if the Party of Regions will veer rise from its grave, it will not agree to it, either. The lessons with Crimea and Donbas have taught the Party of Region’s affiliates to love Ukraine: as it turned out, when the Russian come, they don’t bargain. They take away factories, infrastructure, and media.

When Ukraine does not fall for Putin’s blackmail, the Kremlin claims that "there is no need to talk with jew-banderites", it’s better to hold talks with their Western “masters". If Kyiv tells Europe that the path imposed upon Ukraine does not lead to peace and when the EU weakens its pressure on Ukraine, then the Russian propaganda goes around screaming that Washington is in full control of Ukraine...

The reason for this strange approach is the same as the main problem that lays in the core of the Russian-Ukrainian war: because of its phantom pain, Moscow is not ready to accept the fact that Ukraine is an independent player. But this will pass. There will be a chance for peace only when things are called by their names: the Russian aggression is, in fact, Russian aggression. Without control over the border, it is meaningless to hold talks on the conflict settlement.

Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow

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