On August 3, the Contact Group failed again to agree on withdrawal of weapons of less than 100mm caliber. The process was blocked by Ukraine, which objects to the priority withdrawal of weapons from Donetsk region (Peski, Avdeyevka), Bahmutka highway, Zolotoye and Schastye settlements. The representatives of the people’s republics of Donbass suppose that here Ukrainian troops may go into offensive. Denis Pushilin suggested transferring the situation to the Normandy Four again. The Ukrainian armed forces are complaining of the attacks and the shelling by the self-defense forces.
The Russian Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State had a talk on this matter on August 5. The self-defense forces carried out their obligations, Sergey Lavrov said. So did Ukraine, John Kerry noted. To be honest, the US has a rather weird idea of the parties’ obligations under their Minsk Agreements.
In the meantime, according to media reports, the Minsk negotiations resulted in an arrangement to set up checkpoints, re-launch the railway service and restore the Donbass infrastructure with joint efforts. The OSCE representative pointed out that the meeting of the tripartite Contact Group will continue tackling issues related to the special status and the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine.
The Minsk process has been going on for over half a year, but the public does not see any effective results, especially in the light of the continuous shelling of the Donbass cities and staggering statements of Petro Poroshenko.
I perfectly understand the people distressed for the shelled town of Horlivka, but I cannot help saying that it is not so unambiguous, first of all, because Poroshenko always lies and he does it in full compliance with the Minsk Agreements (!) and because he has much to gain from implementation of the Agreements. It’s another matter that not all provisions of the Minsk Agreements are realistic in the present settings of the Kiev regime.
For instance, no one doubted that it was impossible to rush through the current Rada any documents on the special status of Donbass or amendments to the electoral legislation with due regard for the Donbass proposals. Even an absolutely harmless reference to the law on the special order of self-governance sparked hysteria in the session hall and the voting results made it clear that the constitutional bill would be failed. This happened with direct involvement of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. Nevertheless, the work at amending the Ukrainian Constitution is still going on, but not at the current Rada.
The breakthrough in economic unblocking of Donbass is also noteworthy. The agreements on resumption of the railway service would be impossible, were it not for a number of factors. First of all, the matter concerns the withdrawal of the volunteer battalions from the line of contact (it was these battalions that blew up the railway tracks and robbed the trains) and the energy crisis (along with the transfer of the energy sector control to Arseniy Yatsenyuk). This is a specific example of how the changes in the country (triggered by both deliberate steps of the authorities and their unconscious foolishness) create favorable conditions for implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
The ceasefire issues are still sensitive. However, the resumption of large-scale military operations looks low probable – it will not be perceived by the West and one should not exaggerate Ukraine's abilities to conduct a successful offensive. I think no coercive intervention will be needed in case Kiev attempts to intensify the military steps. Diplomatic measures will be enough.
Vasily Stoyakin, political strategist, specially for EADaily