The new plan for the implementation of Minsk Agreements, presented in two interviews with the leaders of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG – Leonid Kravchuk and Oleksiy Reznikov – looks like another attempt to set unrealistic deadlines for the processes promoted by the team of Ukrainian negotiators.
The sequence of practical steps proposed by the Ukrainian delegation is as follows: by mid-November, ICRC must be allowed access to persons held in the occupied territories, by mid-December – those held persons must be released under the all-for-all formula, also until mid-December the number of SMM OSCE monitors must be increased by 1,500, in early 2021 - all foreign troops must be withdrawn and the illegal armed groups – disarmed, while control over the state border must be given back to Ukraine, and only after that, the Ukrainian delegation proposes, elections could be held on March 31, 2021, in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution and the requirements of the Copenhagen Document.
Kravchuk also outlined Ukraine's position on the next Normandy Four summit: the Ukrainian side intends to meet in this format before year-end to audit the last summit's requirements that have since been fulfilled
Besides, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG, Leonid Kravchuk, said the team intends to mention the "Steinmeier formula" in the document and will demand that the Russian president's decrees on the illegal issuance of Russian passports to the Donbas residents be repealed. Kravchuk also outlined Ukraine's position on the next Normandy Four summit: the Ukrainian side intends to meet in this format before year-end to audit the last summit's requirements that have since been fulfilled.
But holding a Normandy Four summit in the current conditions, where the negotiators from Russia see how Zelensky and his team are interested in it, even being ready to go for some concessions to this end, will only mean new obligations for the Ukrainian side.
The OSCE is unlikely to be able to increase the number of observers until mid-December, as this will require major amendments to the Mission's budget. In addition, the Ukrainian delegation seeks to have the Mission's mandate reformatted –to put OSCE monitors in joint patrols set to be formed "to ensure public order in the de-occupied territories." According to Oleksiy Reznikov, such patrols should consist of Ukrainian citizens living on both sides of the demarcation line who didn't take part in hostilities. As a model, the minister for reintegration cited the experience of Croatia, where patrols consisted of Serbs, Croats, and UN representatives.
This idea, however poses a basic question: how can these deadlines, set by the Ukrainian delegation, be met if Ukraine is still lacking the main element designed to make reintegration safe – the law on pardon? Such law, moreover, must be spelled out really thoroughly and be completely clear to the public in Ukraine.
It's important not to get carried away by the Croatian experience in this regard. The option of reconciliation that was in place during the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube area will certainly not suit Ukraine. What is needed is pardon, which implies vetting, trials, and consideration of each specific case separately. To this end, one way or another, Ukraine needs to designate and lay down the protocol to be applied to those categories of persons falling under the pardon law.
We can already say that it is unrealistic to prepare this framework in such a tight timeframe. And it's even more unrealistic to explain this all to the Ukrainian society, where a serious dialogue on the boundaries of pardon hasn't even begun yet. After all, today there is no basic element for such a dialogue – trust between the public and the authorities on the issue of conflict settlement.
The launch of a mechanism that will separate combatants who fought against the Ukrainian Army from those who was hired by the occupation administrations but never committed crimes will take much longer than the new Ukrainian plan allotted before the elections are supposed to be held. And without finding the truth about those whom Ukraine could pardon, no reintegration projects will make any sense. After all, if it turns out that those who will face a reduced punishment or avoid it altogether are in fact guilty of participating in the war against Ukraine, we will inevitably get a continued conflict, albeit in a different domain.
Without finding the truth about those whom Ukraine could pardon, no reintegration projects will make any sense
When comparing the plan presented by Russia on behalf of the militants and the plan presented by the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the TCG and his deputy, we will see that these two projects are irreconcilable. But there is one serious reservation here: earlier, Russian proxies publicly indicated that the occupied areas of Donbas were preparing for local elections, which could be conducted in March. And it is important to make sure that this single coincidence and the will to comply with the deadline set by the Ukrainian delegation doesn't win over common sense or make us turn a blind eye to security issues.
Maria Kucherenko is a Project Manager at the Center for Civil Society Studies