We all saw the images of the French and Russian presidents meeting in Moscow on that long table. One of the more notable points that came out of that not-so-successful meeting was Emmanuel Macron mentioning the 2015 Minsk Agreement as the model for finding a resolution on the issue, stating that the Minsk II deal, which attempted to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine, is the “sole route on which peace can be constructed”.
But wait, if he mentioned Minsk II, doesn’t that mean there is a Minsk I? It does.
In September 2014, Ukraine and rebels supported by Russia agreed on a 12-point ceasefire. This is known as Minsk I. It included provisions for prisoner swaps, humanitarian relief, and the removal of heavy armaments. This all sounded good, but inevitably, both sides accused one another of infractions of the agreements, so it quickly ended up falling apart.
In February 2015, then, aided by diplomatic efforts from France and Germany, representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the separatist-held territories of Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement.
The following were the subject of the 13 points of the agreement:
- Immediate, comprehensive ceasefire.
- Withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides.
- OSCE monitoring.
- Dialogue on interim self-government for Donetsk and Luhansk, per Ukrainian law, and acknowledgement of special status by parliament.
- Pardon, amnesty for fighters.
- Exchange of hostages, prisoners.
- Humanitarian assistance.
- Resumption of socioeconomic ties, including pensions.
- Ukraine to restore control of state border.
- Withdrawal of foreign armed formations, military equipment, and mercenaries.
- Constitutional reform in Ukraine, including decentralisation, specifically mentions Donetsk and Luhansk.
- Elections in Donetsk and Luhansk.
- Intensify the Trilateral Contact Group’s work, including representatives of Russia, Ukraine and OSCE.
Of course, there is another side to any coin: Moscow considers Minsk II as a tool to ensure that Ukraine is never allowed to join NATO, which is one of Russia’s main security demands. Washington and NATO have already rejected that demand.
They also pointed out that according to the Minsk Agreements – which the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed – Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kyiv were expected to come to an understanding on issues about the special status amnesty, re-establishing economic links, and conducting elections. However, under Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Kyiv pursued actions that violated the Minsk Agreements while the West stayed mute.
While Russia was not mentioned in the Minsk agreements even once, it remained essentially the only country that kept pushing for their implementation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued. “The German and French leaders held that Kyiv could not enter direct dialogue with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and blamed everything on Russia”. This crucial realisation demonstrated how the West continued to press for peace despite making no genuine efforts. The Minsk accords have now been rendered useless, he continued.
So, going back to the Minsk agreements and how the West tried to convince the general public that it was mediating peace, the Russian interpretation was that it was a part of the breakup of the Minsk I and Minsk II accords. Adding to the injury, Ukraine even amended its Constitution to include provisions for joining NATO, which required the deployment of soldiers close to Russia’s border, crossing a line in Moscow’s eyes.
This meant that military intrusions would potentially be taking place at Russia’s doorstep, which led to Vladimir Putin announcing his ‘special military operation’. “In the 1990s, you assured us that NATO wouldn’t go an inch eastward. Putin remarked, “You tricked us brazenly, and as a result, the Russian military entered Ukraine.”
On the other hand, Kyiv stated that Russia would never have a de facto veto over Ukrainian foreign policy decisions, and many Ukrainians consider Minsk II’s implementation a capitulation to Russian aggression.
In fact, for Ukraine, an ex-Soviet state, the agreement gives it a right to reclaim control of its border with Russia and end the prospect of another invasion from Moscow, at least for the time being.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
Written by: Gianluca Vella
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