Russo-Ukraine War - 2014
Poroshenko’s peace plan had envisioned that the abnormal situation in Donbas be rapidly brought back to normal. Minsk-1 provided that the existing abnormal situation be regulated and prolonged, albeit temporarily.’ Instead of being dissolved, the DNR and LNR would now be elements of a future political settlement. In line with Minsk-1, the Verkhovna Rada passed a temporary law on special status on 16 September. It gave the DNR and LNR rights to establish their own police forces, to appoint judges and prosecutors, and to pursue ‘language self-determination’.
Minsk-1 didn’t work. Adopted as a compromise decision between the interests of the sides and containing “special” positions for the pro-Russian forces, it was signed in a hassle and contained little concrete details. The additional Memorandum from 19 September 2014 detailed the process of establishing a ceasefire: established a 30-km demilitarization zone, banned offensives and the use of military aviation, as well as outlined the scope of an OSCE mission, but did not touch upon the wider political questions, such as when elections in Donbas should be held – before or after Ukraine regains control of its border. It did not provide a timeframe or sequence for the implementation of measures. Russia started insisting Ukraine implement the political part of the agreements before the security measures were in place.
Minsk-1 did not satisfy either of the sides: Russia and the separatists weren’t sure their interests would be satisfied if weapons and troops were withdrawn, and Ukraine’s leadership wasn’t sure they would be able to stay in power if the political provisions would be implemented, dealing a blow to their ratings. Although Ukraine adopted the law “On the special status,” and processes of eliminating players who refused to comply with the Protocol started in the ORDLO, parties opposed to the Minsk Protocol emerged in both Ukraine and occupied Donbas. The Russian-hybrid forces resumed did not stop hostilities after Minsk-1 was signed, apparently attempting to force Ukraine into carrying out the political provisions, but the confrontation did not reveal any clear victor.
As fighting raged, emergency negotiations, brokered by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France, took place in Minsk. These produced a ‘package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements’ (‘Minsk-2’). This document, signed on 12 February 2015 by representatives from the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, the DNR and LNR, has been the framework for subsequent attempts to end the war. Although signed by Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, the agreement does not mention Russia – an omission that Russia used to shirk responsibility for implementation and maintain the fiction that it is a disinterested arbiter.
The only reason Minsk II was necessary is that Russia refused to abide by the commitments of Minsk I. Point 1 of both agreements is the same, an immediate ceasefire. This hasn’t been respected.
Russia, the real aggressor, continued to pretend that it was a mediator (like France and Germany) rather than a party to the fighting. Minsk 2 was seen by Moscow as a way to gain strong sway over Ukrainian policy -- domestic and foreign -- by handing a large measure of autonomy to the Russia-backed forces who had held parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- the Donbas -- since the spring of 2014. But Russia and Ukraine had fundamental disagreements over key aspects of the pact, including the sequencing of the confidence-building steps it called for.
The separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine and their Russian backers never intended to implement points 4 [local elections under Ukrainian legislation in the occupied territories] and 9 [the full restoration of Ukrainian state control over the country’s borders]. The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, was in a tough spot because it cannot fulfill one of the points of the agreement even if it wanted to. Point 11 states that Ukraine needs to change its constitution to assign the separatist territories a special status. The constitutional changes have been drafted, but they require a two-thirds majority in the Ukrainian parliament, which will not materialize anytime soon.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed 34,000 servicemen along the contact line. The Russian-hybrid armies were approximately 50,000 strong, including 11,000 Russian nationals and 3,000 regular Russian troops among them.
The annexation of Crimea violated the pledge that Russia made in 1994 — along with Great Britain and the United States — “to respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine,” as a precondition to Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. Obama said, “Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”
Karen Shakhnazarov, Film Director; People's Artist of Russia, noted in December 2019 : "Russia is surely obsessed with Ukraine. It's an old obsession that goes back to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, for which the return of Kiev - the mother of Russian cities - was the greatest dream. That's why it's very complex psychologically for Russia to get rid of this feeling somehow."
President Putin signed an amendment on 28 May 2015 adding to what Russia classifies as "state secrets" any "information revealing losses of personnel... in peacetime during special operations." On 12 May 2015 a report by Russian opposition activists said Moscow spent more than $1 billion supplying a separatist rebellion in east Ukraine and at least 220 Russian soldiers had been killed there. The report was the last project of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who used open source information and interviews with families to paint a picture contradicting Moscow's argument that no serving Russian troops were fighting in Ukraine.
Business Life (Delovaya Zhizn), which usually writes about markets, finance, entrepreneurship and leisure, published a report in August 2015 entitled "Increases in Pay for Military in 2015", which observers believed revealed the numbr of Russian troops killed or maimed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Russian government approved compensation for families of military personnel who were killed taking part in military action in Ukraine of three million rubles (about $50,000). In all, as of February 1, 2015, monetary compensation had been paid to more than 2,000 families of fallen soldiers.
In a June 2015 interview with Charlie Rose, Putin laid out clear and reasonable conditions for making the Minsk accord stick: "The elements of a political settlement are key here. There are several. . . .
“ The first one is constitutional reform, and the Minsk agreements say clearly: to provide autonomy or, as they say, decentralization of power. . .
“The second thing that has to be done – the law passed earlier on the special status of . . . Luhansk and Donetsk, the unrecognized republics, should be enacted. It was passed, but still not acted upon. This requires a resolution of the Supreme Rada – the Ukrainian Parliament – which is also covered in the Minsk agreements. . . .
“The third thing is a law on amnesty. It is impossible to have a political dialogue with people who are threatened with criminal persecution. And finally, they need to pass a law on municipal elections on these territories and to have the elections themselves. All this is spelled out in the Minsk agreements. . . ."
Since the Minsk cease-fire went into effect on February 15, 2015, thousands have been killed in fighting in the Donbas. Russian fighters were supposed to begin leaving eastern Ukraine, despite Kremlin claims that its troops were never in the Donbas in the first place. The Minsk agreement was fatally flawed from the outset. It was flawed because it was negotiated, signed, and implemented based on the fiction that Russia was a mediator in a conflict in which it was, in fact, the aggressor and the instigator. It was flawed because it placed impossible demands on Ukraine to implement constitutional reforms with a gun to its head. And it was flawed because it established an internationally recognized political mechanism for the Kremlin to continue meddling in Ukraine's affairs.
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