ASHGABAT, October 10. /TASS/. Moscow rejects accusations of delaying a Normandy Four summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Thursday.
"When someone accuses us of delaying a Normandy Four summit, they are using improper means. It seems that both the move to sign the Steinmeier Formula with obscure reservations and the situation surrounding the disengagement of forces in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye are aimed at making the Normandy format summit issue more acute so that a meeting takes place just for the sake of a meeting," the Russian top diplomat pointed out.
Russia does not rule out that Kiev’s demand to convene a Normandy Four summit stems from its desire to review the previous agreements reached by the leaders. Moscow will do its utmost to prevent that, the Russian foreign minister told reporters on Thursday.
"There is a feeling that Ukraine demands holding a Normandy [Four] summit to revise the agreements reached at the previous meetings between the Russian, Ukrainian, German and French leaders. That will be a blow to the reputation of the Normandy Four, and we will do the best we can to prevent that," he stressed.
Observing a seven-day ceasefire was not set as a condition for the process of disengaging troops near the communities of Zolotoye (Lugansk People’s Republic) and Petrovskoye (Donetsk People’s Republic) to go ahead, the top diplomat stated.
"Now that a troop disengagement took place in Stanitsa Luganskaya in June, which everyone welcomed, another disengagement was to take place in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye. No seven-day ultimatums were put forward by anyone," Lavrov said.
"When the disengagement failed a couple of times a few days ago, these new conditions emerged that we’ve never heard about before," the minister added. "I can only see one reason behind it — somebody either doesn’t want or cannot implement what was agreed."
Lavrov recalled that an agreement was reached in October 2016 and approved by the Normandy Four leaders to disengage troops in three pilot areas — Stanitsa Luganskaya (LPR), Zolotoye and Petrovskoye. "In the latter two communities — Zolotoye and Petrovskoye — the disengagement was carried out rather quickly [then] and remained in place to everyone’s satisfaction," the minister said. He added that the Ukrainian leadership put forward a demand for a preliminary total ceasefire to be observed for seven days in Stanitsa Luganskaya, which had never been voiced regarding Zolotoye and Petrovskoye.
The top Russian diplomat pointed out that "while the regime of [former Ukrainian President Pyotr] Poroshenko was delaying the implementation of the agreements in Stanitsa Luganskaya based on the demand for a seven-day ceasefire," Russia turned to the OSCE mission that confirmed more than 50 times that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine statistics prove that the ceasefire had been observed for more than a week. "Every time Ukrainian representatives said they think differently, claiming to have heard a couple of gunshots. While this was dragging on, the disengagement in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye was violated because the Ukrainians stealthily brought their troops back into these regions," Lavrov underlined.
Representatives of Ukraine, the Donbass republics, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) signed a framework agreement on the disengagement of forces in three areas of Donbass in September 2016. The document sets up security zones near the Zolotoye and Stanitsa Luganskaya settlements in the LPR, as well as near the Petrovskoye settlement in the DPR. The disengagement process completed in the Stanitsa Luganskaya zone in June 2019.
The first attempt to disengage troops near Zolotoye was frustrated by Ukraine on October 9. The LPR announced that it was ready to restart disengagement of forces and hardware stipulated by the Minsk Agreements on October 10 and notified the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine about that decision.
At a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk held on October 1, head of the Ukrainian delegation Leonid Kuchma signed a letter addressed to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) outlining the Steinmeier Formula, which should be enshrined in Ukraine’s legislation. The plan put forward by the then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in late 2015 stipulates that special status be granted to Donbass in accordance with the Minsk agreements. In particular, the document envisages that Ukraine’s special law on local self-governance will take effect in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on a temporary basis on the day of local elections, becoming permanent after the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) issues a report on the vote’s outcome.
At the talks, the parties to the conflict also agreed to begin the disengagement of forces at Zolotoye (the Lugansk People’s Republic) and Petrovskoye (the Donetsk People’s Republic) on October 7. The withdrawal of troops did not take place on that day, another attempt was scheduled for October 9. However, Ukraine derailed the disengagement process once again. Nevertheless, Donetsk and Lugansk set a new date, October 10, for the disengagement of forces.
The disengagement of forces in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye is the last condition to hold a Normandy Four summit.