Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement on the Minsk agreements

Лавров

On August, 17, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answered the question on the implementation of the  Minsk agreements at a joint news conference following talks with his Iranian counterpart

Question: Half a year has passed since the signing of the Minsk agreements. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently described the situation as “explosive”. Do you think it is necessary to hold a new summit in the Normandy format? There are appeals for an emergency meeting of Kiev’s representatives with those of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. Is this possible?

Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, we are concerned regarding the implementation of the February 12 Minsk agreements. I regularly discuss this issue with my colleagues. Literally the other day, I spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. We informed Paris about our assessments – on par with Germany and Russia, France is a kind of guarantor of the Minsk accords.

The situation at the frontline rather than the line of contact is disturbing. Talks on demilitarising Shirokino and withdrawing weapons with a calibre under 100 mm to a distance of 15 km on each side were held for a long time in response to the appeals of the Normandy Four, but no agreement was reached because Kiev continuously changed its position. As you know, the self-defence fighters followed with unilateral steps – they left Shirokino and withdrew weapons from it to a distance of three km. We hoped that the Ukrainian armed forces would welcome this goodwill gesture, but this did not happen. Ukrainian regular troops entered Shirokino to replace the fighters from the so-called voluntary Azov battalion. There are reports about the arrival of sea soldiers there, which also suggests certain conclusions. The agreement on the withdrawal of troops that was about to be made was not signed at the Contact Group meeting because Ukraine changed its position at the last moment and relinquished preliminary accords. When asked what prompted this step, the Ukrainian representatives replied: “We endorsed something here as it was but Kiev told us we did the wrong thing.”

We are concerned about the developments over the past few days, which are very similar to military actions. This is what happened in August 2014 when the Ukrainian army received an order to attack. When the attack broke down, Ukraine agreed to talks and Minsk-1 was held. The same happened last January when another attempt was made to resolve the issue by force but it fell through. Ukraine again agreed to talks and Minsk-2 took place.

We think it is not worth staging experiments and pushing luck. The sides should simply fulfil what they agreed on in Minsk. I’m referring not only to the de-escalation of military tensions, but also to the start of the political process described in detail in the Minsk agreements.

Instead of constitutional amendments that would define the rights of the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR that were formulated textually by the German and French leaders at the talks in Minsk on February 12, let me repeat that these rights should be sealed in the Constitution. So, instead of making the relevant amendments, they first adopt in the Fundamental Law some transitional provisions to the effect that sometime in the future some territories somewhere in Ukraine will receive a special status. Later on, this amorphous promise was transferred from transitional provisions to another section of the Constitution.

Kiev declares that it has complied with its commitments while US Vice President Joe Biden sends greetings to the Verkhovna Rada, praising Ukraine for resolving the decentralisation issue. So, it was enough just to promise something in the vein of local self-government sometime in the future in some part of Ukraine.

Russia prepared a detailed unofficial document (about eight pages), analysing to which extent the actions of the Ukrainian authorities match the commitments, primarily political ones, assumed by Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko under the Minsk accords. We transferred this document to the members of the Normandy Four, including Ukraine and the United States.

Is it necessary to use the Normandy format? Yes, I think it is, because after all of the Normandy Four supported the agreements signed on February 12 by the representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk with the participation of Russia and the OSCE. The Normandy Four, primarily, Germany and France, are responsible for the implementation of these agreements by the Ukrainian authorities. We will be prepared to hold meetings at an expert level to begin with to present two documents: the Minsk Package of Measures and the Verkhovna Rada-adopted constitutional amendments on the conducting of local elections in Donbass and the granting of a special status to its territories. A simple comparison of President Poroshenko’s commitments and Kiev’s deeds should be an amusing undertaking. We are ready to discuss this with those that guaranteed Ukraine’s bona fide actions.

As for direct talks between Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk, this is the gist of all of the agreements concluded in Minsk and without this we will move nowhere. There is a Contact Group with four subgroups. All efforts to overcome the obstacles in the way of implementing the February 12 Package of Measures can only be held under the auspices of these subgroups. The Ukrainian side is continuously trying to either avoid such contacts or impose on others an approach according to which all issues should be resolved without Donetsk and Lugansk that should merely be faced with a fait accompli. All of this gives food for alarm.

I hope that the series of meetings of the Contact Group and its subgroups scheduled next week will overcome the trend of Kiev’s renunciation of a direct dialogue. I also hope that we will help develop such a dialogue in cooperation with our partners in the Normandy format and our US colleagues who reassured us of their sincere desire to see the complete implementation of the Minsk-2 agreements.

Regrettably, for the time being, we are witnessing attempts by the Ukrainian leaders to escalate tensions with totally incredible, delirious statements. I will quote an excerpt from the Ukrainian president’s recent interview with the newspaper Liberation. When asked about his opinion on Russia’s policy, Mr Poroshenko replied: “Well, Putin wants all of Europe. Can Russia launch aggression against Finland? Yes, it can. And what about the Baltic countries? Of course. And what about the countries in the Black Sea basin? Yes. This is why Ukraine is fighting not only for its own sovereignty and integrity but also for the democracy, freedom and security of the entire European continent.”

Obviously, a man who makes such unprovoked statements (he asks himself if President Putin is ready to attack all of Europe and he himself replies affirmatively) is sooner trying to support Russophobia in the West and artificially escalate tensions to divert attention from his inability to fulfil everything he has signed for.

We are concerned about the lack of negotiability regarding the current Ukrainian authorities. This is why we hope that the Normandy Four are bound to see all of these games and Russia’s sincere efforts to ensure the implementation of the Minsk accords by all sides. We hope they understand the game that the Ukrainian leaders are trying to involve everyone in.