"There is no place for the “DNR” or “LNR” in the Ukrainian constitutional order. The Minsk agreements are intended to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and these establishments need to disappear. Russia is constantly trying to deny its responsibility and insist that the two entities that it created are allegedly legitimate representatives of the inhabitants of the Donbass".
On March 7, U.S. State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker repeated his much-talked-of statement about the need to disband the "republics", that aroused resentment in Moscow, Luhansk and Donetsk. He did this in Warsaw at a meeting with the ambassadors of Eastern European countries and experts on Ukraine, organized by the local office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
On the same day, Volker had a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and the head of the Polish President's Office Krzysztof Szczerski. And if the last meeting probably concerned the tensions between Poland and the USA that arose in connection with the adoption of the scandalous law on the National Memory Institute, Volker's activity in the Polish capital was otherwise connected with Ukrainian affairs. Two days before that, the U.S. Special Representative had discussed Ukraine and the prospects of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbass with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius. Earlier on the same day, the heads of the diplomats of the three Baltic countries - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – had spoken about the dangers associated with Russia, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Judging by the activity of the American foreign policy department, as well as the discussions that have been going on for several weeks in Western media, the USA and EU are serious about the introduction of the UN peacekeeping contingent to Donbass. Kurt Volker began his speech with a reminder to those present that "a couple of hours of flight from here, on European soil, there is fighting, Ukrainian soldiers are killed several times a week. In a few hours' flight from here, Russian troops participate in battles on the territory they have captured. This is a real war, not a frozen conflict".
Constantly noting that the responsibility for what is happening lies with Russia, Volker said that the U.S. goal is to restore Ukrainian power in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, pushing Russia to review its strategy in Ukraine. According to a senior official of the State Department, aiming at pro-Russian Ukraine, the Russian Federation is achieving the opposite result, since the attitude towards it in Ukraine has never been worse than it was in 2014. At the same time, Russia is suffering losses because of sanctions. "They pay a high price and gain nothing instead", - Volker said, assuring that "there is no way to make the relationship between the United States and Russia more productive without resolving the conflict in Ukraine".
He called the introduction of the UN peacekeepers into the Donbass uncontrolled territory as an option for all sides of the confrontation, which would be followed by the implementation of the Minsk agreements. The West, Ukraine, Russia and the "republics" continue to call those agreements as those having no alternative, but they also interpret them differently.
"We hope that we, Russia, the Normandy partners, and Ukraine will all agree to restore peace: to withdraw Russian troops, to introduce UN peacekeeping forces that will ensure security in this territory in order to create conditions for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. The political step that Ukraine has undertaken to make includes a special status for these territories, holding local elections, an amnesty for people who committed crimes within the framework of the conflict and the return of these territories under the Ukrainian jurisdiction. The peacekeeping forces can be a way of transitioning to the resolution and restoration of the Ukrainian government in those territories, but we need Russia's consent to this", - Volker said, adding that "this is not only an American idea, it's an international reality, and we want Russia to keep that in mind".
According to the U.S. Special Representative, Russians are fully aware of this and promise to come to the next discussion with their proposals. President Vladimir Putin at one of his recent press conferences said: "Now they say: no, they (the UN peacekeepers — OstroV) should be everywhere, that is, in fact, it is a matter of putting all this territory under international control. Is Russia in favor or against? We are at least not against, but it is necessary to negotiate with these unrecognized republics. Then go and come to an agreement with them. No, no one wants to do it".
This way, Putin again used one of the traps set by Russia for Ukraine and the West, which do not recognize the subjectivity of these two pseudo-state formations, in fact, completely dependent on Moscow. Earlier, in September last year, the proposal to introduce the UN peacekeepers to the Donbass — but only in order to protect the OSCE observers, was not from the "republics", but from Putin. "It is interesting to reason for a while: to protect from whom", — Volker caustically marked on March 7 in Warsaw.
The West continues to insist on a full-fledged mission that would control the entire occupied territory of Donbass and the Russian-Ukrainian border in this sector. For the USA and the EU, the peacekeeping contingent became the link that was lacking in the Minsk agreements to determine the order of their implementation — if we do not take into account not written in them, but practically existed overriding need to withdraw Russian troops and militants from this territory.
Moscow insists on Kyiv accepting the law on the special status of these territories, coordinated with the "republics", and holding local elections under the terms of local puppet leadership as the first steps to restore Ukrainian power there. At the same time, even at the earliest stage of discussions, the parties had disagreements as to who could take part in such elections, when the "republics" rejected such an opportunity for Ukrainian political forces and disagreed with the voting right for internally displaced persons.
Volker, following other Western analysts, noted that the peacekeeping mission would take about six months of work in the occupied territory to create conditions for legitimate local elections. The U.S. Special Representative referred to the so-called "Steinmeier formula", according to which the uncontrolled part of Donbass receives a special status on the day of holding there a plebiscite, recognized at the international level.
Volker made clear in Warsaw on March 7 that at the moment, there are no signs that Russia is actually preparing to somehow change its actions in Ukraine, but expressed the hope that Moscow is still affected by reality, in which it wins nothing from this war. The fact is that Ukraine and the West are also suffering from the war and sanctions. So, the outcome of the confrontation depends only on the stability of local governments with their current policies, and no one has a guarantee that Russia will for one reason or another concede first.
According to Kurt Volker, it is in Putin's interest to try himself as a peacemaker: to stop fighting "in one Slavic family", as the Russian Federation proclaims, — between Ukrainians and Russians, and to achieve the implementation of the notorious Minsk agreements, including rendering special status to the occupied territories. "Russian-speaking citizens live and work throughout Ukraine. There are no conflicts, discrimination or problem in being ethnic Russian in Ukraine .The only place where people of Russian origin and Russian-speaking are at risk is the place of location of Russian troops, because there is a conflict there", — the U.S. Special Representative emphasized.
Volker noted without euphemisms the continuation of the still irrepressible conflict between Russia and the West with the absence of any visible prospect of changes. According to his forecast, Putin's behavior will not change in the near future. "I want to remove words like "trust" and "compromise" from the dictionary because we will come nowhere, dangerously thinking that we can trust Russia or that Russia can trust us, or expecting that Russia will agree to compromise in its basic interests", — he said, adding that he still believes that Russia and the West can at least "agree on some things", meaning precisely the cessation of the war in Ukraine. At the current moment, according to Kurt Volker, "we should continue to demonstrate the world as we see it to the Russians in order to give them a subject for reflection".
Yulia Abibok, OstroV, Warsaw