Is the war really over? The Americans have supported the Minsk agreements, haven’t they? But it turns out that Victoria Nuland made no direct promises during her visit in Kiev, while Victoria Voitsitska’s confession about Nuland’s ultimatum was just a rumor.
The main thing is maneuvers
In Kiev, Nuland met with President Petro Poroshenko, new Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman and new Speaker of the Supreme Rada Andriy Parubiy as well as with Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk and Mayor of Kiev Vitali Klitschko. But the sensation of the visit was Nuland’s meeting with Ukrainian MPs. Later MP Victoria Voitsitska (Adnriy Sadovyi’s Self-Reliance Party) made public the details of her Facebook talk with Nuland. “The Department of State insists that Ukraine should made changes to the Constitution give a special status to the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk, organize elections and amnesty all fighters. The Minsk agreements must be implemented by the end of 2016 as there is no alternative to them” – this is what Voitsitska said in her Facebook comment on Nuland’s visit, but later she removed it. Nuland got angry and blamed some Ukrainian MPs for distorting her words. Pavlo Rizanenko from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc appeared with another version; “She said quite tactfully that the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the settlement of the Donbass problem depends on us. She said that nobody is pressuring us. Either the Minsk agreements are implemented this year or they won’t be implemented at all. She said that during an exchange of views.”
But “the Minsk agreements must be implemented by the end of 2016” and “nobody is pressuring you” are two mutually contradicting messages.
So, if we believe Voitsitska, Poroshenko and his men in the Supreme Rada will try to get the peace process moving;
if we believe Rizanenko, everything will stay the way it is with “lukewarm skirmishes and clashes” to be continued.
In Fairmont Grand Hotel Victoria Nuland spoke a lot about reforms and fight with corruption and said nothing specific about the Minsk process.
The only thing she said was that in Europe President Obama has agreed with his German, French and British colleagues to continue applying sanctions against Russia until it fulfills all of its Minsk obligations. But the problem here is that Russia has undertaken no obligations on Minsk 2.
As regards the Americans’ position on the matter, this is what Nuland said: “One of the decisions made at Hannover is that the United States will now accelerate its own diplomacy, in close coordination with the Normandy format leaders -- with Germany and with France - to see Minsk implemented. This will require restoring security and OSCE access across the Donbass, the return of hostages, preparations for real, Ukrainian elections in Donbass that meet international standards and that accord with your constitution, and of course, the withdrawal of all weapons and foreign forces, and a return of sovereignty over your border to Ukraine.”
If we compare Nuland’s words with the statement made by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault a week before, we will see a big difference. While in Moscow on Apr 20 Ayrault said that by June 2016 Ukraine must adopt constitutional amendments concerning the special status of Donbass and elections in that region.
By the way, according to Nuland, she met with the leaders of the Supreme Rada’s groups, while Voitsitska is not the leader of the Self-Reliance group.
As regards the leader of that group Oleh Bereziuk, in his interview to the Voice of America he said that Minsk 2 is a platform for discussions between Ukraine’s eternal enemy and neighbor, Russia, on the one side, and the European Union, Ukraine and the United States, on the other. But if it is implemented, Ukraine will stop existing as a sovereign state. So, Bereziuk and his colleagues are trying to convince the Americans that some of the points of Minsk 2 are not safe and are not necessary. According to Bereziuk, there is a good alternative to Minsk 2 and the Americans should support it – recognition of Donbass as an occupied territory and its temporary isolation as a temporarily occupied territory.
There is one more aspect Bereziuk did not mention – the United States’ opting for Minsk 2 will be a blow on the regime ruling in Kiev and will be a boost for the “party of peace” – the Opposition Bloc with Yuri Boyko and Vasyl Nimchenko.
The latter is the author of one of the two bills on elections in Donbass. The other bill has been drafted by Oksana Syroyid from Self-Reliance. But here the Opposition Bloc has rivals such as Viktor Medvedchuk’s Ukrainian Choice and Vasyl Volga’s Union of Leftists. This means negotiations with Russia. So, this will be good for figures like Medvedchuk and Leonid Kuchma.
Among potential “peacemakers” are Oleh Lyashko and Yulia Tymoshenko. But let’s not forget that the key factor that helped Petro Poroshenko to win the presidential election in May 2014 was his peacemaker’s image.
If the Americans insist on implementing Minsk 2, the next round of the talks will about mechanisms of implementation. In any case, we can’t say anything for sure until the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev. The fact that Nuland announced Kerry’s visit to Kiev means that she failed to convince the key forces in Ukraine’s Supreme Rada.
Sergey Slobodchuk, political advisor, specially for EADaily (Kiev, Ukraine)