These two weeks of unprecedented calm in the Donbas warzone logically pose a question: what's next? What steps can be taken to get Donbas back without losing sovereignty and harming territorial integrity?
The "new" leadership of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group keeps generating proposals. The latest one, voiced by delegation chief Leonid Kravchuk, is to replace the idea of a "special status" for the areas in Donbas that are now temporarily occupied with a "special regime of administrative management".
At first glance, this is a useless, short-sighted exchange. But…
First, replacing the term eases for a public eye negative connotations related to the very concept of "special status". After all, for many this phrase is just too emotionally charged. In fact, people find it equal to surrender. And where there's surrender, there are "red lines" and new protests. Who would need this ahead of the election? The incumbent authorities don't – that's for sure.
At first glance, this is a useless, short-sighted exchange
Secondly, any changes that could be made to the package of measures for the implementation of Minsk agreements open a window of opportunity for other changes. For example, those regarding peacekeepers, or changes in the sequence of conditions laid down in Minsk that must be fulfilled. Could this be the actual idea? Perhaps… However, the Russians are unlikely to concede. They do realize that, as soon as at least one change is made to the Minsk deal, more will definitely come, and nothing will stop the process. And that's nowhere near what Russians really need.
And, thirdly, content is important. So far, we aren't talking about any radical changes other than a simple concept renaming. That is, Kravchuk stops short of altering the content of what provides for a "special status". It's things like amnesty, special management, Russian language, and "people's militsia" (performing policing functions). That is, the same points could be included in the "special regime of administrative management" formula. And, it is also quite possible that by this renaming move, someone is trying to impose on us – those living in a free Ukraine – the same kind of rotten pie, but in a nice new wrap
By and large, Kravchuk offers nothing new. After all, even in the mentioned Package of Measures there's a note under the special status section, explaining what exactly it's supposed to mean. Also, it explains that the corresponding steps shall be taken in the framework of Law on the special order of local government in certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In other words, there is no clear requirement for the introduction of that "special status", but there are requirements as to what it provides for.
By and large, Kravchuk offers nothing new
It is as if we are stuck in solving an equation "X = 3-2", discussing whether to change "X" to "Y" or "Z". But the problem is that no matter the letter, the solution will remain the same. In other words, it's not the letter that must be discussed, but the numbers involved.
So what further action should be taken, given the current calm in Donbas? The fact is that the ceasefire doesn't force us to search for any ways. For now, it is the Kremlin's means of pushing through the ideas of either "elections in the occupied territories" (then this calm will surely drag until early September) or "major support for pro-Russian parties in local elections" (then calm will last until late October). But none of this forces Ukraine to run ahead of the train and implement all points at once. Moreover, while we are talking peace here, occupation authorities are talking about the introduction of compulsory military draft.
Bohdan Petrenko is a Deputy Director at the Ukrainian Institute for Extremism Studies