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Kiev, Donbass say they still have conflicting views on reconciliation process

During Wednesday’s meeting, the self-proclaimed republics faced "the Ukrainian side’s total failure to understand the sequence and contents of vital provisions" of the Minsk deal

MINSK, February 13. /TASS/. A regular meeting of the Contact Group on settlement in eastern Ukraine, which coincided with the fifth anniversary of signing of the Minsk Agreements, confirmed that the sides still have directly opposite views on political settlement.

"The withdrawal of armed groups and military equipment and return of full control over the border remain the basic precondition for the start of a political process, including elections," a spokesperson for the Kiev government’s delegation, Darya Olifer, said.

In that regard, the foreign minister and the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) delegation to the talks said that during Wednesday’s meeting, the self-proclaimed republics faced "the Ukrainian side’s total failure to understand the sequence and contents of vital provisions" of the Minsk deal.

"Kiev representatives continue their attempts to make political settlement talks convenient for them," Nikononorova said. "First of all, this applies to preconditions for granting a special status to Donbass. The Ukrainian side is deliberately trying to hush down the issue of the special status law and insists on discussing matters that are either premature or outside the Contact Group’s zone of responsibility."

"Once again, we had to call upon Kiev to re-read the text of the Complex of Measures, which lays down an unambiguous sequence for implementation of the measures," she added.

The DPR diplomat went on to say that five years after the signing of the Minsk agreements, Ukraine should eventually "stop inventing alternatives to the Minsk accords and start consistently implementing all provisions of the document, endorsed by the guarantor nations and approved by the UN Security Council."

Back in October 2014, Ukraine’s President Pyotr Poroshenko signed a law on self-governance in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, establishing a special status there for three years. However, while the law was never implemented in Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada extended its effect every year. In March 2015, Poroshenko violated the Minsk agreements, introducing amendments to the law which effectively halted its implementation. The law’s effect was repeatedly extended by Ukrainian authorities and this time was supposed to lose its force on December 31, 2019. However, the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) once again extended the law for another year on December 12.

In late 2015, then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier put forward a plan that later became known as the "Steinmeier formula". The plan stipulates that a 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 Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issues a report on the vote’s results. The idea was endorsed at the Normandy Four meeting in Paris on October 2, 2015, and has been known as the Steinmeier formula since. Ahead of the Normandy Four summit in Paris held in December 2019, Russia insisted that Ukraine assumed the obligation to enshrine the ‘Steinmeier formula’ into law as a compromise mechanism of granting the special status to Donbass.

In late 2019, the formula was once again sealed in written form by members of the Contact Group, including Ukraine.

Despite that, Ukraine has been reluctant to encompass the Steinmeier Formula into its legislation, citing security issues and demanding that first it should regain control over a stretch of the Russian-Ukrainian border now controlled by self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev ignores the fact that, in line with the Minsk agreements, this can happen only after elections are held in those regions.