Ukrainian interest. Normandy impotence, Crimean escalation, and Biden factor
Yet another meeting in the Normandy format has brought no positive changes to the process of Donbas settlement. It’s not only Ukraine but also the European Parliament which is concerned with the crackdown against the Crimean Tatars in the Russian-occupied Crimea. Joe Biden confirmed the high degree of his involvement in Ukrainian affairs.
The Normandy format of Donbas settlement is increasingly resembling a suitcase without a handle, which all of the participants are forced to carry. Ukraine does so to prove its status as a responsible member of the international community, Russia – in order to prevent the strengthening of Western economic sanctions, Germany, and France – to confirm their ability to influence the situation in the Old World. In addition is currently a chair at the OSCE, so this imposes additional obligations upon Berlin.
However, the meeting of the Normandy Four’s foreign ministers on the shores of Lake Tegel has brought no results. Actually, such outcome of the negotiations was projected, since Russia is not even simulating any will to promote settlement in Donbas. In fact, it continues to supply military equipment and weapons to the militants. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that the issues of regional security and holding the elections in the militant-occupied areas of Donbas under the Ukrainian legislation are not subject to trade-offs, promoted by his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov routinely shifted responsibility to Kyiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, whose representatives, according to the Russian Foreign Minister, must come to the negotiating table. A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova demonstrated her incompetence after the Berlin round of talks, voicing her resentment over the fact that the Ukrainian delegation used a map on which Crimea was designated as the Ukrainian territory. Apparently, it would be useful for the "voice of the Smolensk Square" to recall that the United Nations General Assembly in March 2014 confirmed that Crimea is in fact part of Ukraine.
Russian occupation authorities continue to put pressure on the Crimean Tatars: both on ordinary citizens, and the representatives of the Mejlis. In addition to the mass detentions in Bakhchisarai (the occupation forces raided the mosques, knowing that they could make as much as possible of the arrests there) and searches, criminal charges were imposed on the deputy head of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov. The European Parliament spoke up for the protection of Crimean Tatars, With a special resolution, the MEPs condemned the ban on the activities of the Mejlis in Russia.
It is worth noting that the tightening of domestic policy in Russia is continuing. The State Duma in the first reading passed a bill that limits the travel of the Russian citizens abroad. The balance of power in the Russian parliament does not suggest that this initiative will not be supported as a whole. On the same day, the top management of Russia’s RBC business news agency was sacked for allowing themselves something inappropriate in their publications, according to the Kremlin. Putin and his entourage continue imposing a siege mode across Russia, failing to hear the opinion of the international community about its policy in Crimea and Donbas.
Barack Obama and the Nordic leaders not only called for continued sanctions against Russia but also advocated the intensification of reforms in Ukraine. The main mediator between the White House and Ukraine remains U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who not only reaffirmed commitment to grant Ukraine a $1 billion worth of loan guarantees but also invited Volodymyr Groysman to visit the United States in June and supported the appointment of Yuriy Lutsenko to the post of a prosecutor general.
A more active engagement of Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski is also noteworthy. The diplomat accused the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, of ignoring Poland’s will to take part in the negotiations on the Donbas settlement. He also underlined that his country must be ready for a possible influx of refugees from Ukraine. With these statements, Warsaw is trying to kill several birds with one stone: to attract Washington's attention on the eve of the July NATO summit in the Polish capital, to strengthen its own influence in Eastern and Central Europe, and to reduce the flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, who are perceived rather negatively in the conservative Polish society.