Last week, the main topic for Russian media was the exchange of prisoners between the "Donbass republics" and Ukraine. Of course, because it was "initiated by Putin".
"Exchange is a breakthrough"
In the article under such title, Novaya Gazeta comes to the conclusion that "this autumn, the stagnant Minsk process began to show signs of life for the second time".
The newspaper recalls that "for the first time this happened after the September proposal of President Putin on peacekeepers in the Donbass conflict zone".
"But this impulse stalled for a long time in the controversy of interested parties about the mandate of the peacekeepers, their composition and the zone of their deployment. Now we are seeing an unexpected revival of the exchange of prisoners", - Novaya Gazeta writes.
The newspaper notes that "as of February 12, 2015, in paragraph 6 of the Set of Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements, it was said that the release and exchange of "hostages and illegally detained persons" was going to be based on the principle "all for all”. This process was to be completed "at the latest" on the fifth day after the removal of heavy weapons from the line of contact".
However, "there was no full removal of heavy weapons, and shooting, albeit not so intense, did not stop, and many "illegally detained" persons turned into "convicts".
"Not to mention the fact that no one hurried to carry out the 5th paragraph of the Set of Measures (to adopt the law on amnesty to the participants in the "events") - and it, undoubtedly, is connected with the 6th paragraph. It was supposed to not allow the "participants in the events" to be transferred to the category of "convicts", - the newspaper adds.
The newspaper asks the question, "why, after a long stagnation, the process of exchanging "all for all" was suddenly revived?"
"We have repeatedly noted that everyone is so done with the Donbass conflict. Moscow included. It is unpromising, politically and economically burdensome, it does not allow Russia to get out of international isolation and causes ever more tangible damage to the interests of the country in the international arena. It is necessary to withdraw from it", - Novaya Gazeta considers.
But, according to the newspaper, "it is impossible to revive the Minsk process with the old methods".
"It is hopeless to make constant claims to Kyiv, that Ukraine misunderstands the order of execution of the Minsk protocol items. Every charge is met with the news about the illegal supply of arms and "volunteers" from Russia and the violation of the ceasefire by the separatists. The response charges of illegal shelling by the Ukrainian army turn this problem into a hopeless international squabble, which has exhausted everyone, including European participants in the Normandy format”.
The newspaper sees that "the Kremlin needs new actions that are not a "loss of face" and do not look like the surrender of its interests, but which can be regarded by the international community as positive and as an invitation to dialogue".
"The proposal on peacekeepers was from the category of "new actions", but, as we have already noted, its implementation is becoming more and more long-playing. But success is needed quickly. In this sense, the exchange of prisoners is a win-win situation. It does not affect the security interests of the parties to the conflict, it does not change anything in the alignment of forces in the region, but it has a solid humanitarian weight and propaganda potential. And, importantly, it is quite feasible at a fast pace", - says Novaya Gazeta.
The newspaper believes that "each of the parties expects additional bonuses" from the exchange of prisoners.
"For the official Kyiv, this is the answer to the attacks of political opponents, that nothing is done to release "our guys". For the unrecognized republics it is at least some partial inclusion of official contacts with Ukraine in the process of coordinating lists for release (the leaders of these republics interpret their own legalization by the fact of Putin's direct communication with them on the phone). For Russia, in addition to the fact that its actions will be approved by Western "partners", the fact that one of the key points of the Minsk Set of Measures will be implemented, means that Minsk-2 is more alive than dead. That is, it's possible to really negotiate on its points, without brainwashing of the population", - the newspaper adds.
"There is another consideration, not so obvious at first glance. The experts speculate that the exchange "all for all" was one of the topics that were discussed during the autumn meetings between the U.S. and Russian special envoys for Ukraine, Walker and Surkov, in Belgrade along with the problem of the peacekeeping contingent. If this is so, the success of the exchange of prisoners may mean that Russian-American contacts are useful for the normalization of the international situation".
"Hint at an early recognition?"
Argumenty i Fakty newspaper analyzes, "why did the Russian president address the heads of the DNR and LNR?" and states that "observers saw this as a serious political implication".
AIF asked the opinion of the popular in the Russian media Ukrainian political scientist, the president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostyslav Ishchenko.
He believes that by interfering in the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and the militants, "the Russian president demonstrated a partial recognition of the leadership structures of the “republics”".
"Before that, he did not communicate with them, thereby emphasizing that these are self-proclaimed republics. Now the situation is changing, and it is changing first of all in Kyiv. In fact, Ukrainian leadership refuses to comply with the Minsk agreements. Thus, applying directly to the heads of republics, Putin took a step towards their full recognition", - the political scientist said, immediately clarifying that "this does not mean that it will happen tomorrow".
"Everything can happen in a month or a year. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been waiting for recognition from Russia for 20 years. But in general, this is a signal to our Western partners, who must now take into account that Moscow has a wide field for maneuver", - Ishchenko pointed out.
He stresses: "... In this situation, Putin's call was made to show the West that the situation is changing essentially, and that we can already play it in a different way".
Asked what can become a condition for the final recognition of the "republics" by Russia, the political scientist replies: "The situation in Ukraine is so unpredictable that it is unclear what will be there within a week or two. And even more so, in two months... Now Russia is not motivated to recognize the LDNR in their current territorial shreds".
"Ukraine itself is on the verge of collapse. There is a tough political struggle: an attempt to remove Poroshenko through a creeping coup. After this, several clans will begin to portion out power and territories, most likely with some shooting. Poles, Hungarians and Romanians are already willing to portion out Ukraine. Therefore, it's easier to wait and see what happens next", - political scientist Ishchenko suggests.
And concludes: "It is possible for Russia to render any assistance - economic, military, political - to the republics in the way that it has been doing for 4 years, regardless of whether they are officially recognized or not. Only one thing will radically change: the DNR and LNR will have the opportunity to open their embassies in Moscow".
"Ukraine will get "javelines"
Gazeta.Ru tried to guess to what the deliveries of American lethal weapons to Ukraine could lead.
"The National Security Council will recommend the U.S. President Donald Trump to give a "green light" to the supply of weapons to Ukraine for $47 million. Javelin anti-tank missiles were also included in the list of weapons. This step should help Ukraine to "resist pro-Russian separatists", a source in the State Department reported. If Trump agrees, he will violate pre-election promises - during the race, he promised some kind of "acceptable support" to Ukraine instead of weapons", - Gazeta.Ru notes.
The newspaper recalls that "on November 9, the U.S. Congress agreed upon a defense budget for 2018 financial year" and "according to the bill, sent to President Trump for signature, the USA will allocate $4.6 billion for "containing" the Russian Federation in Europe and countering Russian aggression".
"According to the new estimate, Ukraine will be able to get $350 million financial aid from the Americans - but the Pentagon head can send Kyiv only $175 million, until the Ukrainian army will not conduct "institutional reforms"… According to the adopted budget, the U.S. Secretary of Defense will have the opportunity to send Kyiv only $175 million in the form of military assistance. In total, the USA plans to give the Ukrainian authorities $350 million. As stated in the explanatory note, this step is due to the fact that the AFU should conduct "institutional reforms" of a certain nature - to maintain military capabilities", - Gazeta.Ru states.
"At the same time, under the new law, the head of the Pentagon General James "Mad Dog" Mattis must develop new strategies and tactics for countering Russia", - the newspaper adds.
What can all this push Russia to? In this regard, Gazeta.Ru quotes opinion of the head of the State Duma Defence Committee Vladimir Shamanov, who is confident that "in case of supplies of American weapons to Ukraine, the situation in the country will "explode".
Commenting on the statement of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin that Kyiv expects to get not only anti-tank guns, but also drones and counterbattery systems from the USA, Shamanov stated that "these Klimkin's "wishes and dreams" sharply destabilize the state that has already developed to some extent, at least somehow controlled for international organizations and residents in the conflict zone".
"All resources that he [Klimkin] listed refer to offensive action, and, of course, this will be extremely negative for all parties to the process, both political and diplomatic, I do not even mention the military. It will not complicate, it will blow up the situation [in Ukraine]", - Gazeta.ru quotes Shamanov.
"According to him, if Washington decides to supply weapons to Ukraine, "this will be the most irresponsible step", - Gazeta.Ru states.
"Lukashenko will reconcile Donbass with Ukraine"
Tsargrad writes about this, informing that "Belarus can send its peacekeepers to the zone of armed conflict in the Donbass".
"The issue of introducing the UN peacekeeping contingent into the zone of armed conflict in the Donbass is still on the agenda. And apparently, it will remain for a long time. Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement on peacekeepers, made on September 5, 2017 and followed by the introduction of corresponding project to the UN Security Council, made it possible to steal the initiative of Ukraine in this matter and identify certain "red lines", presence of which had greatly enraged Kyiv regime and had de facto buried all of it hopes of holding a Croatian scenario in the Donbass. Naturally, under the guise of NATO "peacekeepers", - Tsargrad states.
The media reminds that "underlying differences in the issue of introduction of peacekeeping contingent in the Donbass are as follows": "If Russia insists on a reduced format of the peacekeeping mission, which will be to protect the OSCE personnel on the contact line, then Ukraine and the United States demand introduction of the armed "peacekeepers" throughout the territory of the DNR and the LNR, including the border of the People's Republics with Russia, what, in point of fact, will mean the complete blockade of the Donbass".
"Also, Kyiv unambiguously makes it clear that this "peacekeeping contingent" will only include its allies, but not Russian servicemen, what Donetsk and Luhansk would like. Also, Ukraine categorically rejects any agreement on the mandate of UN peacekeepers with the DNR and the LNR. In other words, if Russian plan provides for peaceful settlement of the conflict, taking into account the interests of Donbass, Kyiv needs peacekeepers only as a cover for conducting a total sweep of uncontrolled territories", - Tsargrad believes.
The media is quotes by Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, who stated that "we are ready to allocate the appropriate peacekeeping contingent in order to participate in solving peacekeeping tasks, if it is acceptable to all interested parties".
"The initiative of Vladimir Makei was commented by Belarusian political analyst Mikhail Malash in a conversation with correspondent of Tsargrad. In his opinion, the Belarusian Foreign Minister voiced the initiative of the country's president Alexander Lukashenko, put forward in 2014", - the media notes.
"Lukashenko proposed to settle the Donbass problem in 2014. At that time, his proposal remained without response, - the expert noted. - The Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus considerably exceed the Ukrainian ones. If the elites of the Russian Federation cannot solve the problem by force, fearing problems with the international community, it could be done by hand of the Belarusians. The Belarusian authorities have no problems with this, since our country has existed for 20 years in the conditions of almost frozen relations with the West. In the diplomatic language, this is called "the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent". Lukashenko offers his assistance in solving the problem once again, through Minister Makei", - Tsargrad writes.
The media notes that "the DNR did not exclude the possibility of bringing peacekeepers to the region from Belarus".
However, Tsargrad unexpectedly exposes "one of the founders of "The Donetsk Republic" movement, ex-chairman of the People's Council of the DNR Andrei Purgin as a source of the "position of the DNR", who "noted in conversation with Tsargrad that by and large, Belarus has a dual position in relation to both Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, in his opinion, the lack of linguistic barrier will be a plus".
"Purgin also emphasized the nature of expected peacekeeping mission. According to the proposal of Vladimir Putin and the document, submitted to the UN Security Council, the matter concerns a peacekeeping mission in quite reduced sense, the politician stressed. "Their functions should consist exclusively in protecting the OSCE mission when it moves and when it is on the contact line. That is, they will not be independent "blue helmets", but subordinates to the OSCE mission, engaged in its escort and protection", - Purgin explained", - Tsargrad writes without specifying for some reason that the opinion of "politician Purgin" has not worried anyone in the "DNR" for a long time.
"Alongside this, radical Ukrainian nationalists have already sounded the alarm", - Tsargrad continues. "So, Ihor Mosiychuk, the people's deputy of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, recovered after the recent assassination attempt, stated that Belarusian peacekeepers can become the "Trojan horse of Putin", with the help of which "the Russian occupants will come to the Donbass"… Ivan Vinnyk, the people's deputy from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, also spoke against the presence of Belarusian peacekeepers in Donbass, having stated that Belarus "quite seriously compromised itself as a partner or ally of Ukraine".
"His colleague in faction and vice-speaker in the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Herashchenko, described the actions of Belarus as a "stab in the back of Ukraine", commenting on the position of Minsk on voting in the UN. And chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, banned in Russia, Refat Chubarov, who also has the mandate of deputy from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, called the policy of Minsk towards Kyiv "Jesuit" and advised Lukashenko "to concern with the territory of his country, if it has at least some sovereignty", - Tsargrad adds.
The media is convinced that "warmongering Kyiv regime will not agree to any - even the most compromise - version of the peaceful settlement in the Donbass".
"The rhetoric of Ukrainian politicians leaves no doubt that Kyiv is ready to quarrel with one of the few neighboring states, with which Ukraine still maintains normal partnership relations", - Tsargrad concludes.
The review was prepared by Mykhailo Karpenko, OstroV