During its meeting in Minsk on May 6 the Contact Group managed to form four sub-groups, to schedule its next meetings and even to specify its agenda.
In their final statements, the parties refrained from mutual criticism but just expressed hope that peace in Donbass is possible. Ukraine’s representative Leonid Kuchma said that the talks were help in a friendly atmosphere. Representative of Donetsk Denis Pushilin said it was a long-awaited breakthrough. “The most important thing is that Ukraine, from the one side, and Donetsk and Luhansk, from the other, have started a dialogue. We hope that this meeting will market a new stage in our talks and that peace is near,” Pushilin said.
Representative of Lugansk Vladislav Deinego said that there were no serious contradictions between the parties. “The dialogue was constructive. We are ready to carry out the complex of measures stipulated by the Minsk protocols. This meeting was a dialogue of equal parties,” Deinego said.
Representative of Russia Azamat Kulmukhametov said that the work done in Minsk has become a serious step towards political settlement in Donbass.
The key issue of the agenda was forming four sub-groups (on political and economic issues, on security and on humanitarian issues). The sub-groups comprise representatives of Ukraine, Donetsk, Lugansk, Russia and OSCE.
According to Kuchma, the security sub-group will see to it that the Minsk protocols be implemented. “This includes ceasefire, withdrawal of weapons, access for OSCE observers. We have already drafted documents for withdrawal of guns of a caliber less than 100mm and 85mm tanks and mortars,” Kuchma said.
He said that the Contact Group did not discuss the possibility of international peacekeeping mission in Donbass even though that issue was on agenda. “If the sub-groups prove inefficient, the only way for us will be to ask the UN or the EU to send peacekeepers. Concerning the work of the humanitarian sub-group, today we have 1,460 missing people and 399 POWs or illegally detained people in the southeast of Ukraine,” Kuchma said.
Kulmukhametov said that the economic sub-group would discuss how to timely pay pensions and how to restore the banking system. “The political sub-group will make preparations for municipal elections in Donbass. The next meetings of the sub-groups are scheduled for mid-May but the specific dates and venues are not known. This is why there were some contradictions in the parties’ statements,” Kulmukhametov said.
OSCE representative Heidi Tagliavini said that the political and economic sub-groups will meet in Minsk on May 16, while the humanitarian one will meet on May 19. The security sub-group may meet in the territory of its region.
Meanwhile, Deinego said that one of the sub-group ma meet on May 14, two sub-groups will meet on May 19 and the fourth one will meet on May 22.
Pushilin said that in fact the dates have not been specified. “We may well hold all the meetings on one day,” he said.
Kuchma said that Ukraine’s representatives to the sub-groups are Volodymyr Horbulin (politics), Yevheniy Marchuk (security), Ihor Veremiy (economics) and Irina Heraschenko and Viktor Medvedchuk (humanitarian).
The Russian representatives are Yaroslav Moskal (security), Vladimir Stepanov (humanitarian), Maxim Polyakov (politics) and Sergey Nazarov (economics).
The coordinators of the sub-groups are from the OSCE.