2017 was marked by a number of important events, statements, decisions on the Donbass: a coup in the "LNR", the withdrawal of the Russian military from the JCCC, the peacekeepers' topic, the adoption of a law on the extension of the "special status" and the vicissitudes with the law on the reintegration of Donbass. Along with this, reports of the dead and wounded Ukrainian soldiers began to come from the front again, which means that the Minsk agreements, which the president continues to rely on in resolving the conflict, do not work. But the top leadership of the country still does not see an alternative to them.
All this became the topics of OstroV's interview with the chairman of Sila Prava All-Ukrainian Movement, the People's Deputy of Ukraine of the V-VII convocations Andriy Senchenko.
- What do Minsk agreements mean to you?
- My attitude to these agreements has not changed. Minsk agreements are a product of inadequate actions of the highest military and political leadership of our country after Poroshenko's election as president. When he entered his office on the first working day, two draft decrees on the introduction of martial law were placed on his table. They have already been prepared with all the justifications. The first option envisaged the introduction of martial law in the territory of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts, and the second - the introduction of martial law in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, as well in adjacent areas of the Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia oblasts. But Poroshenko did not make any decision. The malicious nonfulfillment of the Law "On the Defence of Ukraine" began. After all, our legislation clearly specifies what to do in case of armed aggression, but the president did not comply with it. All this led to numerous human casualties and provoked Ilovaisk tragedy, the reaction to which once again emphasized the inadequacy of the country's political and military leadership. Poroshenko, Muzhenko and Geletey simply did not want to believe in the Russian invasion. They were told that they were killing people, that columns of Russian armored vehicles were moving across our territory, and they responded with accusations of alarmism and threats of prison reprisal for cowardice. And then they had shock and hysteria, as a result of which the Minsk agreements appeared.
In fact, Poroshenko went to Minsk in a demoralized state and agreed to Putin's scenario. And then Putin, playing on the reflexes of Poroshenko, arranged a bloody carnage near Debaltseve and, through the same scheme, managed to get the second Minsk agreements.
The formula, written in those agreements, does not lead to the restoration of the peace and territorial integrity of our country. This is absolutely Putin's scenario - the infection of Ukraine at the expense of the regimes under his control in the occupied territory of Donbass, and then, through this infection - the decomposition of the entire body of the Ukrainian state.
- Today we see that Minsk agreements do not work and they have not led to peace. But could they theoretically become a plan for resolving the conflict in the Donbass?
- No. They initially could not be a recipe for a way out of the crisis, because Putin, with Poroshenko's tacit consent, was in the role of a "peacemaker", not an aggressor and an occupier. This allowed him to actively impose a version of the internal nature of the conflict.
Given this position of the Ukrainian president, the remaining participants in these talks were more concerned about appeasement of Putin at the expense of Ukraine's concessions, threatening the very existence of Ukraine.
The only potentially effective option for our country is still the Budapest format, in which the right to form the agenda originally belongs to Ukraine, which got rid of the third largest nuclear arsenal at the request of the entire civilized world.
That is why such a format is unacceptable for Putin. Poroshenko said many times that Putin would not have agreed to participate in such a format. But Putin's disregard for the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances does not destroy this format. In his absence, the guarantor countries must work out joint measures to compel Russia to peace.
- In your opinion, is it not too late to implement such a scenario?
- It is never too late, but Poroshenko, like three years ago, is still not capable of this. In such a format, Ukraine should be represented by a real leader with people's support and respected in the West. And when you have only offshores, stolen billions and hatred of the majority of citizens, what can you talk about?
- But after all, he had this support when he won the presidential election in the first round...
- Yes, but he missed his chance, because from the first day, and every day of his rule he lies to the Ukrainian people.
- Do you think that in the run-up to the new presidential company it is possible to activate the Minsk process?
- The Minsk process died. If we are talking about Poroshenko, he wants to make a few highlights of his campaign. First, the story that a peacekeeping mission in the Donbass will solve all our problems and restore peace. Second, a fake referendum on Ukraine's accession to NATO, which may be necessary, but he wants to coincide it with the elections, to create a certain sense chain among the voters. It is clear that Poroshenko will not be elected in a normal, natural way, so he makes a bet on the most severe usage of administrative resources and on very large-scale falsification. That is why the Cassation Administrative Court is formed as part of the new Supreme Court, and the judicial reform is conducted in order to secure himself and rule forever.
He certainly will not use Minsk, but he has a minimum PR program and a maximum program for peacekeepers.
The maximum program is to introduce peacekeepers to the entire territory of the CDDLO and forget about this problem until the end of his political biography. After all, peacekeepers are not introduced for a year or two, there are almost no such examples, it is a minimum of 5-10 years. That is, he discards this problem from himself, and says that "the UN rules" there now. The introduction of peacekeepers into our territory does not mean that Ukrainian sovereignty will be restored.
The minimum program is to make talks about peacekeepers more or less real to the spring of 2019, with the slogan "elect me again, peacekeepers will come, Ukraine will have peace". But it is all fake, the continuation of the lie, thanks to which he was elected - he had promised that we would get peace in two weeks.
- What is the problem with the peacekeeping mission for us?
- The only option that could be acceptable for Ukraine is if the peacekeepers were deployed on the border between Ukraine and Russia.
- Do you believe that such an option will be implemented?
- I do not believe in this, because in terms of the consequences it would be equivalent to Ukraine's admission to NATO. And now they talk about peacekeepers' deployment in the entire occupied territory of the Donbass. This will mean that there will be no Ukrainian sovereignty there. For example, the SBU will try to detain Zakharchenko, but peacekeepers will not let it happen, because they are introduced to resolve an internal conflict. And we will indirectly recognize this. It would be ideal for Poroshenko to throw the Donbass off to the UN and once a year repeat that we will return the Crimea. He is quite satisfied with the size of the remaining Ukraine, as a pasture for his business.
Peacekeepers are a very dangerous game for Ukraine, because we will eventually get a territory that we will be not able to manage for many years.
- Recently, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called the Minsk agreements dead and called for the development of a new format for negotiations. With what do you connect this position of one of the most influential figures in Ukrainian politics?
- It is about elections. It has long been clear to everyone that the Minsk agreements are not a recipe. It is just that the "People's Front" was focused on business tasks, and now it is time for them to declare their patriotism in the hope to win voters with something.
- Is it possible to cross out the Minsk and Budapest formats and develop a completely new format for negotiations?
- What for? What will be the basis and who will formulate the agenda? How to determine the circle of participants in the new negotiations? We do not have to think of new formats, we need to rely on existing guarantees. It must be remembered that every country has its own citizens, its government, its own problems and national interests, and we need to ensure that our interests will be implemented at negotiations. And we can claim this, arguing that we have solved a huge problem for the world by abandoning nuclear weapons.
- What about the pressure of the West?
- When it is profitable for Poroshenko not to pay attention to the pressure of the West, he destroys anti-corruption structures and does many other indecent things. And when it is unprofitable for him, he tells us that foreign partners are pressing him. The problem is that after 3.5 years of Poroshenko's work, there is not a single authority whom people trust. With anti-rating of more than 90%, all the branches of power in our country no longer represent the interests of the Ukrainian people. Therefore, when they come to negotiate, the participants in these talks are clearly aware of who they are dealing with and the weight of these people, which is determined not by title, but by electoral support. So, at the last Eastern Partnership Summit, no one has already spoken with Poroshenko as with equal, as with the leader of 40 million population country.
- The President of the Russian Federation has already said that he would not hold negotiations in the Budapest format. How then can they be held, if in fact, Russia controls militants in the Donbass?
- At first, Putin will not come to the negotiations, but it is very important for us that the other original guarantors on the Budapest Memorandum (the United Kingdom and the USA - OstroV) came and sat down to talk, and it will be difficult for them to give up on this. And if the president of Ukraine still has real support of people, then they all will come and sit down. Measures to force Putin to make peace should be developed at this table. First of all, these are sanctions. For example, export of Russian oil is about 27% of Russia's GDP, and if an embargo is imposed on the purchase of oil, Russia will start wheezing. It will be a knockout for the Russian Federation, and it will crawl to this negotiating table. And most importantly, in the Budapest format, Ukraine will be able to form the agenda itself and demand a real withdrawal of Russian troops from the Donbass and the Crimea.
- Sila Prava non-governmental organization, which you are heading, has been helping Ukrainians in courts to recognize Russia as an aggressor and award compensation for material and non-pecuniary damage for several years. A few months ago, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a so-called bill on the Donbass reintegration, where the Russian Federation is in fact recognized as an aggressor. What is your estimation?
- The war has been called an anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine for the fourth year. Poroshenko personally is interested in preserving the ATO regime, because if it is not ATO, then the question of his personal responsibility for everything done and not done arises. With ATO abolition, he will have to deal not with Roshen, but with defence of the country, so he resists (the adoption of law on the Donbass reintegration, - OstroV).
This is not the law on reintegration and de-occupation, it has no such title, the press created and anchored such title. This is the law on anti-terrorist operation abolition and giving new legal form to those actions to protect Ukrainian sovereignty, which the Ukrainian army is undertaking in the Donbass. But when the bill was being drafted, at Poroshenko's insistence, the Minsk agreements and other norms that allowed him to trade through the front line were added to it. In other words, it was a try to preserve everything that brought the country to a deadlock. All this roused the indignation of society and therefore, it was passed only in the first reading with great criticism. I have a version of this bill, which, after considerable revision, was voted by the parliamentary committee on national security and defence, I studied it carefully. It must be passed. ATO is abolished, shameful law on the "Crimea" free trade zone is abolished, the draft includes a provision on exemption from court fees of Ukrainian citizens, who suffered as a result of Russian aggression and are at law with the aggressor state. If Bankova does not try to attach the "Minsk toadstools" to the project at the last minute, it should be passed as soon as possible.
- And why then there was a delay with its passage?
- The key problem is that Poroshenko does not have any strategy concerning Donbass, allowable to our country. The country does not accept what was dictated in Minsk by Putin. In fact, this law is catastrophically needed right now with only one goal - to change the legal form of what we are doing in the Donbass, protecting our sovereignty. But Poroshenko does not want to do this, because he is critically dependent on Russia in the business area. He said that first, it is necessary to pass the law on extension of the special status of CDDLO, and then, by the end of 2017, this law would be voted on. But Poroshenko initially was not going to give his faction way on the passage of law on the Donbass reintegration.
- The delay with passage of the law was explained in the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction by the possible disruption of exchange of prisoners. Do you believe that?
- These are excuses and a game. And this game is once again dictated by the Kremlin. Let me remind you that in the very Minsk agreements of Putin-Poroshenko, there is a clause about the exchange of all for all, but it does not work. I believe that all the patriotic forces of parliament should demand to pass this law as an ultimatum.
- Recently, the topic of elections in the occupied territory of Donbass has become more active. In particular, director of the Center for Current Policy Alexey Chesnakov, who is close to the presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, stated that elections in CDDLO would be held in the fall of 2018. How should we treat such news?
- These are not elections, but a continuation of provocations towards Ukraine. Moscow cannot announce elections in our territory. We are not going to return the Donbass via direct negotiations with more or less non-judgemental leaders of illegal formations. Perhaps, Poroshenko wanted and agreed to this in Minsk, but the country will not let him to do it.
The formula for restoring sovereignty, peaceful life and reintegration of the occupied territories will be successful only when it is supported by the majority of Ukrainian society. Let us say tomorrow, the Donbass is returned to us according to the Minsk scenario, how do you think, what will the relations of that part of the country with this part, where families of the deceased live, there are tens of thousands of crippled, 1.5 million IDPs, who were bombed out, whose housing was cleaned out and grabbed?
- Probably, the civil war Russia is talking about today will begin…
- Of course. And to avoid it, the formula should not be built on extreme points of view. This is not easy: we suggested and everyone started clapping at once, there should be some middle point.
- But the elections are needed to have someone to talk to.
- The elections can be legal only after the occupants will leave these territories and a transition period will pass. It is impossible to hold elections in the Donbass immediately after the withdrawal of occupants. There is always a transition period in post-war conflicts. Germany did not hold elections after World War II for four years. A transition period is needed to restore the peaceful life of people, for coming of Ukrainian media, political parties, non-governmental organizations, punishment of criminals and so on.
- And how much time is needed for this?
- In my opinion, it is three years for the Crimea and five for the Donbass.
- And who will manage at the local level all these years?
- There should be an appointed authority all this time. In fact, the Cabinet of Ministers should answer for the vital activity of these territories. Moreover, heads of the transitional civil administrations of these regions should be members of the Ukrainian government, because otherwise, people will not reach out to the high offices and will not solve their problems.
Holding elections in the controlled territory of Donbass was Poroshenko's mistake. Entire free territory of the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions was to be in the zone of responsibility of the civil-military administration. For example, after the liberation of Lysychansk from the militants, not just those who shouted: "Putin come" crawled out of the woodwork, but those who organized the illegal "referendum"; or the same Sievierodonetsk, where deputies are being killed, because there are internecine wars of the same clans that remained from the regime of Yanukovych. Does the country need such elections? We need power, which will be engaged in restoring the normal life of people every day. This power must be under a strict control of the government.
- How should the policy regarding the occupied Donbass be built today?
- We should proceed from the fact whether we are going to return these territories or not. If the answer is yes, then the question arises of how we will return: by war or other than war measures? If by war, it will bring a lot of trouble, so we must do everything to do this by other than war measures.
All other than war measures, without exception, are connected with pressure on the aggressor state and on the occupation regimes. Are our citizens living in the occupied territories suffering from this pressure? Yes, of course. But who suffers more: a family that sent a son to the front and he returned a cripple or feet first, or a family that lives in Donetsk and experiences some difficulties (more expensive products and products of worse quality, social infrastructure does not work and so on)? I think that these are incommensurable things. Second, if we recognize the Donbass as an occupied territory, then the whole burden of responsibility for its maintenance lies with the occupant. Of course, there are certain difficulties with pension coverage, but I want to note that during World War II, the USSR did not pay pensions in the occupied territory of Ukraine. This is war.
I want to emphasize that the current Ukrainian government does not have a clear strategy and policy concerning the occupied territories and internally displaced persons. Poroshenko, having become president, liquidated the department for the occupied territories in the Presidential Administration, which was established a few months earlier in the head department for domestic policy. And today, there is not a single person in the Presidential Administration, whose functional duties include issues of the occupied territories and internally displaced persons. This is the policy of the president. When the parliament was elected in November 2014, we proposed to create a committee on these issues, but this was not done at the command of presidential administarion. This is a deliberate policy. As a result, a fake ministry for the occupied territories was created. This is a total nonsense. That is the whole policy.
Interviewed by Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV