MOSCOW, July 9. /TASS/. If Ukraine decides to pull out of the Minsk agreements, this will be an extraordinary event for all, however, Russia is ready for any turn of events from a political standpoint, Deputy Chief of Staff the Russian Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak said in an interview with TASS.
"Firstly, I would like to touch upon the goals for the upcoming year set by the Ukrainian political leadership. It is clear that because all these goals are the object of negotiation within the Minsk and Normandy formats, every participant of the negotiation process must understand the end result," he explained. "What are Ukraine’s final goals? What are the conditions and mechanisms to implement those goals, according to our Ukrainian colleagues? I assure you that so far, despite the talks that have lasted for over five years, no one has complete clarity on these issues."
"We do not know what the Ukrainian president means by plans B and C either," Kozak continued. "There is no point in trying to guess the secret plans of Ukrainian colleagues. Ukraine’s exit from the Minsk agreements would be an extraordinary event for everyone. However, this will be a political event, and not a natural or man-made disaster, where we need a detailed plan of action drafted beforehand to eliminate the consequences. From a political standpoint, we will be braced for any development."
Hope for constructive dialogue
Cautious hope for a constructive dialogue with Kiev on resolving the conflict in Donbass is rapidly fading, Dmitry Kozak told TASS.
"Until very recently, up to early March, we had cautious hope for an open and constructive dialogue on issues related to resolving the conflict. However, the hope is rapidly fading," he pointed out.
According to Kozak, Moscow can understand that Kiev authorities have difficulties in making decisions given the domestic political situation. "We can see that their political opponents strongly oppose all efforts to take constructive steps to implement the Minsk agreements. Opposition particularly comes from their predecessors who participated in the development of the agreements," Kozak noted.
The March 11 meeting of the Contact Group on resolving the situation in eastern Ukraine became an important watershed, he went on to say. The meeting, which involved the self-proclaimed Donbass republics, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), reached an agreement on ways to move the negotiation process forward. "The next day, the meeting’s participants had to face strong pressure. Protests bordering on mass civil unrest made Ukrainian envoys drastically change their position," the Russian official stressed. "This is why, as for prospects for resolving the issue through political means, I can only say that today, everything depends on Ukraine, the primary beneficiary of efforts to resolve the issue," Kozak emphasized.
At the same time, he said that it was a matter of survival for the residents of Donbass and the entire Ukraine. "If [Ukrainian] President Zelensky’s team maintains a sustained, direct and honest dialogue with Donbass, the conflict may be resolved in quite a short time. However, if they stick to the position they have been demonstrating in recent months, holding talks only to protract the negotiation process, then it will lead to a years-long frozen conflict," Kozak concluded.
Efforts to resolve the Donbass conflict are based on the Minsk agreements, which particularly require Ukraine to carry out a constitutional reform, enshrining the self-governing status of Donbass in the basic law. The special status law that Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) passed a while ago has in fact been suspended in the wake of amendments running counter to the Minsk accords. The law, initially supposed to remain in effect for only a year, has been repeatedly extended.
Gap between Ukraine and Donbass
Inconclusive talks between Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donbass republics only widen the gap between Kiev and the residents of the republics, Dmitry Kozak opined.
"Time waits for no man. The conflict has been going on for six years. Inconclusive and useless lengthy talks only widen the gap between Donbass residents and the Ukrainian government," he said. "It is clear that it will be harder and harder to bridge this gap in the future."
"Lately, namely at the latest Berlin meeting, we have been calling on our colleagues to take on an open stance: if you don’t find it necessary to adhere to certain obligations, or you are unable to do that, just state it directly. Don’t mislead the entire world talking about your unwavering support of the Minsk agreements or, for example, of 'a comprehensive, full and permanent ceasefire'," Kozak said.
Mass protests broke out in eastern Ukraine, mostly populated by Russian-speaking citizens, following a coup d’etat in Ukraine in February 2014 and President Viktor Yanukovich’s ouster. In mid-April of the same year, Kiev’s authorities launched a military operation in Donbass in response. Heavy shelling of residential areas, including the use of aviation, caused large-scale humanitarian disaster in the region. According to the UN, more than 13,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict and over 30,000 have been injured.
Simultaneously, Kiev introduced a full blockade of the region, severing all economic ties. The Ukrainian authorities stopped paying social benefits to the citizens of the territories not under their control.