Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 13.02.2018
A sad milestone was passed on February 12. Three years ago, the second Minsk Agreement was signed. It wasn’t a peace treaty, it wasn’t an armistice, it was supposed to be a ceasefire, and it never proved to be binding on Russia. Russia has been invading, occupying, and attacking Ukraine every day for 3 years, 11 months, 23 days. The Minsk Agreement hasn’t made the slightest difference to Putin’s War and Russia’s unrelenting aggression against the West.
The Minsk Agreement of 12 February 2015 was doomed from the start. Russia insisted that it was not a party to the agreement, but only a guarantor. Russia is the invader of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas, but the lie was put forward that a separatist rebellion existed in Donbas only, and that entities called the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” were the institutionalized representation of that rebellion. In fact, the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” are creations of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The ‘separatist rebellion’ is an invasion of eastern Ukraine by the Russian armed forces, with an elaborate propaganda effort to showcase local proxies. For three years, Russia – meaning the Kremlin – was able to say that the Minsk Agreement should be respected, while the “DPR” and “LPR” – meaning the FSB – was able to violate every term of the agreement. Putin got the appeasing West to believe that the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, while all along a coherent invasion and occupation has been underway, covered by effective disinformation.
The Minsk Agreement cannot be a means to resolve Russia’s invasion of Europe. It cannot possibly end the war, because Russia's position is based on the lie that one of the sides is the “DPR”/“LPR.” Ukraine respects the ceasefires, because it acknowledges that it is a party to the conflict: Ukraine is the defender of Europe. Russia violates the ceasefires, because it denies that the “DPR” and “LPR” are Russia itself, the other party to the conflict: Russia is the invader of Europe.
Russia refuses to return over 400 kilometres of the Ukraine-Russia border to its proper status as an international frontier. Russia will not allow the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United Nations, or the International Committee of the Red Cross to access the border, as the Minsk Agreement demands. Russia refuses to stop firing artillery, launching rockets, and shooting at Ukrainian defenders and civilians. Russia refuses to pull back heavy weaponry from the battlefront, as required by the Minsk Agreement. Russia refuses to release Ukrainian prisoners of war and hostages, as is required under the “all-for-all” prisoner exchange requirement of the Minsk Agreement.
The Minsk Agreement is a failure also because it says nothing about Crimea. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one campaign of Putin’s War – Crimea and Donbas are not different. Both Crimea and Donbas are sovereign territory of Ukraine that have been invaded by the Russian Federation. Both have been illegally and temporarily occupied. Russia must leave both Crimea and Donbas to adhere to its international obligations imposed by the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, by the Helsinki Final Declaration, by resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Pretending that Crimea and Donbas are different cases, as Russia does, is a path to further war – not a path to peace.
France and Germany are failing Europe over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreement. Germany and France both proclaim that “there is no alternative to Minsk” but they don’t do anything to back up their words. The two countries truly are guarantors of the Minsk Agreement, but they do absolutely nothing to make good on their promises. Merkel and Macron (and Hollande before him) do nothing about Putin’s non-stop lying, promise-breaking, and aggression against Ukraine. While the western European leaders say there’s “no military solution’ Putin is providing one by his relentless warfare against Europeans.
France and Germany are overwhelmingly more powerful than Russia, but they only show weakness to Putin. France and Germany have failed as guarantors of the Minsk Agreement, but they have succeeded at guaranteeing more and expanded war by Russia against Europeans.
Russia lies, France and Germany deceive themselves to appease Russia, and only Ukraine confronts the reality of Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas. Since the Minsk Agreement was signed, Ukraine has respected the ceasefires one-sidedly while Russia violates them routinely. This has cost Ukraine dearly in dead and injured servicemen. But it has meant that the sanctions regime against Russia has remained in place, as there is no reason to lift sanctions on Russian individuals and entities while Putin’s invader-occupiers are still attacking. Ukraine has also been able to build up and strengthen the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukraine will never surrender to Russia, and Putin will never win his war.
Ukraine has improved its defensive posture on the battlefront. In the past two years, Ukraine has liberated villages in the “grey zone” immediately on the free Ukraine side of the battlefront from the Russian-occupied side. Novoluhanske, Travneve, Hladosove, Verkhniotoretske, Novooleksandrivka, and Katerynivka are now rid of the Russian invader-occupiers. According to the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, all attempts by Russian troops or their nominal proxies the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” have “ended in a fiasco”: not a metre of ground was given up by Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukrainian territory was liberated from the Russian invader-occupiers. Turchinov added: “Our units in some areas moved on for 10 or more kilometres and improved their positions. This is a fact.” One area of the battlefront where such an improvement has been observed is in the area of the Bakhmut Road, south-east of the village of Krymske in Luhansk region.
The Minsk Agreement has failed because it was based on a lie. Only ‘realpolitik’ – acting on the basis of real conditions – will bring peace to war-torn Europe. Russia cannot be a guarantor of a ceasefire/peace deal because Russia is a party to the conflict: Russia is invading Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas. Ukraine is the effective leader of Europe because Ukraine is actually doing something about the Minsk Agreement – respecting its terms completely – while actively defending itself and all of Europe from Russian armed aggression.
Listening to Russia’s lies about Minsk and listening to France and Germany’s empty words about Minsk has become tiresome after three years. Only the actions of Ukraine give Europe hope. The Minsk Agreement is fading into history as the diplomatic weapon wielded by Russia that it was. The era of passive reactivity to Russian aggression will come to an end. The liberation of Crimea and Donbas will begin. Russian aggression will break over Ukraine, because Ukrainians are indomitable. When Russia is defeated peace will return to war-torn Europe.