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Eastern Promises

piksel

piksel

12 February 2015

The Minsk-2: Difficult to Sign, More Difficult to Implement

author Jewgen Worobiow

Following 14 hours of overnight talks, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin agreed on a draft document titled “Set of measures to implement the Minsk Agreements”. The text refers to the agreements, signed between representatives of Russia and Ukraine in September 2014, but which have not been implemented in full.

The document is a mixture of the least controversial positions held by Ukraine and Russia and includes most of the provisions included in the previous, September agreement. This document will have to be signed by the member of the Trilateral Contact Group: OSCE representative Heidi Tagliavini, Ukraine’s representative (and second president) Leonid Kuchma and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, as well as two private persons Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky without any mention of their DNR/LNR “affiliation”.

Summary of the text:

  • Ukraine has not conceded to acknowledging DNR/LNR as legal entities: they are not cited in the text, even though Russia tried to use them as a bargaining chip;
  • There is no mention of federalization in Ukraine, but there is Ukraine’s unilateral commitment to the constitutional reform;
  • There’s no mention of any peace-keeping forces to be stationed in Eastern Ukraine;
  • Theoretically, there’s an important mechanism of electing local authorities according the Ukrainian law (as demanded by Ukrainian negotiators), which essentially recognizes that the election held by the so-called DNR/LNR were null;
  • Provisions demanded by Russia usually have a deadline, those by Ukraine often lack one;
  • However, the monitoring mechanism for the implementation of this Agreement looks very weak: while the OSCE remains the only institution responsible for it, there’s little mention of the resources it can deploy beyond basic surveillance equipment. 

The scanned pages of the document in Russian have made it to the Internet (can be viewed here). I will now briefly outline its 13 provisions (in bold) with my short commentary (in plain text).

1. Ceasefire in the “some areas” of Lugansk and Donetsk region as of 00.00 on 15 February 2015. This provision alone appears very vague but should be understood in the context of the next point.

2. Withdrawal of heavy artillery systems from a demilitarized zone 50/70/140 killometers wide (depending on the type of systems: Grads, Uragans etc). The withdrawal should start after the second day of ceasefire and be completed after 2 weeks. The biggest problem of this provision is that different reference lines are defined for Ukraine and Russian militants, which is sure to cause controversy and potentially tensions on the ground.

3. Monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime should be carried out by the OSCE. The means mentioned (UAVs, radiolocation systems etc) are unlikely to be deployed quickly, there’s no mention of the addition staff to be deployed in the conflict zone or of their competences.

4. Within 30 days, Ukrainian parliament should adopt a regulation, which will specify the exact territories where a “special regime of local government” (September agreement) will be applicable.

5. Amnesty for “persons involved in events in some areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions” by implementing a separate law. This provision is phrased in a very vague way, without specifying how it should be implemented on the executive level: for example, doesn’t mention pending criminal cases.

6. Release and exchange of “all hostages” and “illegally held persons” based on the “all-for-all” principle. Again, phrased in a very vague manner, so it is not immediately clear whether, for example, Nadiya Savchenko (a Ukrainian POW held under detention in Moscow) is subject to the provision.  There is also no mention on which institution or authority will coordinate the exchange of prisoners of war.

7. Safe delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid. Doesn’t specify the “clearance” mechanism for the delivery of the humanitarian aid, hence Russia will keep on claiming its “convoys” are humanitarian aid.

8. “Determining modalities of the full restoration of social-economic ties” with Ukraine, including “social transfers” (pensions etc). Ukraine “will restore the management of its segment” (of the banking system) and the “international mechanism for facilitating such transfers might be created”.  Although this provision presents no clear commitment on Ukraine’s part to restore in full the social payments and subsidies, it provides no alternative means of financing, so it is bound to remain a huge point of contention.

9. Restoring full control over the state border by the Ukrainian government in the whole conflict zone” is supposed to start after the local elections are held (under the Ukrainian law) and to finish by the end of 2015. This provision, however, is conditional on a number of concessions listed in point 11, each of which could potentially give the militants and Russian forces a reason to block the transition of control over the border.

10. Withdrawal of “all foreign armed groups, military equipment and mercenaries” under the OSCE supervision. The provision is weak on monitoring mechanism and provides no clear deadline.

11. “Constitutional reform” in Ukraine with the adoption of a new constitution by 2015. This constitution should be based on decentralization and take account of peculiarities of “some areas” of Donbas. This “special status” is supposed to be enshrined in Ukraine’s legislation through a number of conditions: e.g, “language self-determination”, “economic cooperation with Russia”. Some of those conditions, however, seek to legitimize the current political control of the occupied regions by the militants. For example, “creation of militia units by local authorities” seems to grant pro-Russian militants an official status even despite the requirement of “withdrawing foreign armed groups”.

12. Local elections in the occupied regions will be planned within the Trilateral Contact Group and will be held under the monitoring of the OSCE ODIHR. The question of whether the election can be considered free and fair before the militant groups and Russian forces are withdrawn (given point 9) is still an open one.

13. Working groups to be set up in the Trilateral Contact Group to implement this agreement.


To conclude, I have to mention a nice yet disconcerting term used in this document. The “comprehensive political settlement” is described as the adoption of the new constitution and passing of the laws on the “special regime”, but it is likely to be invoked to pile up new demands by the pro-Russian militants and Russia, regardless of whether they are mentioned or not.  This may well mean that a Minsk-3 is upon us in half a year.

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