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Experts differ over Kiev's talks with self-proclaimed eastern republics

June 24, 2014, 18:22 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Representatives of Ukrainian government Nestor Shufrich (L), Viktor Medvedchuk (2-L) and Leonid Kuchma (C), during meeting with leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk peoples republic in Donetsk, Ukraine 23 June 2014

Representatives of Ukrainian government Nestor Shufrich (L), Viktor Medvedchuk (2-L) and Leonid Kuchma (C), during meeting with leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk peoples republic in Donetsk, Ukraine 23 June 2014


MOSCOW, June 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Talks between the Ukrainian government and self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in Ukraine that started on Monday with Russia’s and OSCE mediation have been the best news since the Ukrainian crisis broke out, believe many experts polled by ITAR-TASS. Yet some doubt the government's good intent.

The first day of preliminary consultations obliged the rebel republics to declare ceasefire in response to a similar measure on the side of the government forces and stop military actions, if Ukrainian troops cease moving about the republics’ territory.

Deputy Director of the Centre for Political Technologies, Boris Makarenko, believes the start of consultations will give “a positive sign of possible peace settlement in Ukraine’s southeast”.

“The composition of the Donetsk trilateral contact group alone shows how difficult it was to find a format to represent the negotiating parties. Ukrainian officials long persisted in their unwillingness to take seats at the same table with the people whom Kiev describes as separatists,” the expert told ITAR-TASS.

The Ukrainian delegation is led by the head of the Ukrainian Choice civic movement, Viktor Medvedchuk, former head of presidential staff — “a candidate all three sides are happy with”. The former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma is also a high-profile figure. The negotiating format has been determined, and everything is ready to start, believes Makarenko. Participation of the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, indicated that Moscow was earnest about promoting political settlement in Ukraine’s southeast, the expert added.

“The government in Kiev earlier denied the possibility of direct negotiations with Donetsk and Luhansk leaders and held round tables without their participation. It brings comfort that the government and self-proclaimed republics are starting to understand it is only the two confronting sides in Ukraine that can find a way to cease military actions, an idea repeatedly mentioned by the Russian president and foreign minister,” an advisor to head of the Federation Council, Larisa Vdovichenko, told ITAR-TASS.

The expert believes political settlement in Ukraine’s southeast is now heading in the right direction.

“All contentious issues, all mutual claims should be discussed at the negotiating table, not resolved by force,” she said.

Director of the Institute of Political Studies and member of the Civic Chamber Sergey Markov noted “the unusual composition” of the negotiating group.

“Kiev’s delegates are far from the president Petro Poroshenko’s team. For instance, Medvedchuk backs the idea of Ukraine’s federalization. The OSCE special envoy Heidi Tagliavini is known in the West as a very honest person after she described Mikheil Saakashvili without any qualms as an aggressor in the 2008 armed conflict between Georgia and Russia,” said Markov. “Washington patrons of the government in Kiev will hardly approve of such a make-up, with participation of the Russian ambassador and Donetsk and Luhansk leaders at that”.

“Assuming that Medvedchuk, Kuchma, Tagliavini, Zurabov and the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics reach a compromise on a peace settlement in Ukraine’s southeast, will these agreements be accepted in Kiev?” the political scientist wonders.

The truce has been agreed until June 27 — the day when Poroshenko plans to sign the economic integration agreement with the European Union in Brussels. Therefore, Markov believes, the negotiations in Donetsk are a kind of “a cover story: they will then say they had tried to come to an agreement with ‘separatists’ but failed”.

“Poroshenko had previously said there would be no compromise with ‘separatists and terrorists’. This means he is determined to carry out a scenario of military stifling of the protests in Ukraine’s east and has just taken some breathing room,” Markov believes.

Dean of the World Economy and International Affairs Faculty at the Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov, described the consultations as “coming from evil”.

“Petro Poroshenko needs to show the West he is making efforts to pull the country out of the crisis and to push his stock high in order to nudge the EU and the International Monetary Fund towards aiding Ukraine’s drowning economy and get political support. Therefore, he is simulating negotiations with the leaders of unrecognized republics,” the expert believes.

At the same time, Karaganov does not doubt the participants are “worthy people” who sincerely want to cease bloodshed in Ukraine’s southeast but whether it will yield any results is “a big question”.


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