Distinguished participants of the meeting!
First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present Lugansk's position at such a high level.
My colleague from Donetsk outlined in sufficient detail the current state of affairs in the Minsk negotiations. With your permission, I would like to highlight in some detail certain differences in the way the conflict has been going in the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.
On April 14, 2014, after the introduction of the so-called "anti-terrorist operation", the formation of "volunteer" and punitive battalions and their deployment in Donbass along with army units, including heavy weaponry, began. I will give a very vivid example: on April 15, at the entrance to Lugansk, local residents practically with their bare hands stopped the advance of a column of armored vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: six armored personnel carriers and cars with towed 122mm D-30 howitzers were heading from Dnepropetrovsk. Kiev moved this weaponry for use against the unarmed civilian population. Another example - in April 2014, in the cities of the Lugansk region citizens were arrested everywhere just for opposing the Maidan and the armed coup.
In these circumstances on April 27, 2014, at popular gatherings the creation of the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) was initiated. To implement this intention, it was decided to hold a popular referendum on May 11, 2014 in the Lugansk region on supporting the state independence of the Lugansk People's Republic. Moreover, the presidium of the Lugansk regional council of the 6th convocation, unlike its “colleagues” from the Donetsk region, did not run anywhere at that time and on May 5, 2014 even adopted a statement in support of this referendum.
More than 96% of the voters supported self-determination of the Lugansk People's Republic. On May 12, at a mass meeting in Lugansk, the results of the referendum were announced and the Act on State Independence of the Lugansk People's Republic was proclaimed. In the following days, deputies of the LPR People's Council, a representative body, were elected by direct voting at gatherings of territorial communities in cities and districts. From that moment on, the process of forming the people's militia from scattered self-defense and maintenance of law and order detachments, that had been spontaneously formed in the territories in the previous period, began.
In Ukraine, on May 25, 2014, P. Poroshenko won the illegally scheduled early presidential elections in Ukraine. At that time, he positioned himself as "the president of the peace" and promised to end the conflict in Donbass within two weeks.
War of Ukraine against its own citizens
Instead of the promised peace, almost immediately after the elections, the armed formations of Ukraine unleashed the first fightings on the territory of the LPR. Against the civilian population, organized into self-defense units, Ukraine sent battalions of the national guard, formed from the activists of the "Maidan", and "punitive battalions", which consisted mainly of criminals convicted of serious crimes and early released under the obligation to join the war against Donbass. These armed formations were supported by aviation, tanks, artillery and tactical missile systems of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
One of the first particularly cruel airstrikes was the S-8 unguided missile Su-25 aircraft attack on the center of the city of Lugansk on June 2, 2014. Two of those missiles hit the regional administration building. At that moment I was inside the building, about 15 meters from the hit point. Several more S-8 missiles exploded in front of the building and in the park opposite.
As a result of the air raid, 8 civilians were killed, including 5 women. Later, 3 more people died of their wounds. 28 people were wounded mostly in the street in front of the building. About 80 meters from the missile strike locations in the park there is a playground where children played on when the air strike happened. Fortunately, none of them were hurt.
A report on this crime on the evening of June 2 was published on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
The use of heavy weapons and aviation by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the war against the population of Donbass had become systematic. The aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine conducted airstrikes almost every day. Here are some of them:
- July 2, 2014 - Stanitsa Luganskaya - 12 people died, including 5 years old child;
- August 28, 2014 - the city of Alchevsk - 2 people were killed.
Simultaneously with hostilities conducting, Ukraine is taking steps to suppress Donbass by economic and humanitarian ways.
The economic and humanitarian isolation of Donbass was started by Ukraine on June 13, 2014. On the territory of Donbass, the work of the state treasury bodies was suspended, payments of pensions, social benefits, financing of the budgetary and communal sectors were stopped in accordance with departmental orders. Soon the decisions are made on the complete withdrawal of all power structures, government bodies and banks from the territories not controlled by Kiev.
By the end of the summer of 2014, the residents of the territories of Donbass not controlled by Ukraine were practically excluded from the legislative field of Ukraine.
Since December 2016, Ukrainian radicals had begun blocking transport communications across the contact line, and on March 15 Poroshenko's decree made that blocking legal. In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine established restrictions on the quantity of imported food and a ban on the import of oil and lubricants.
Since April 25, 2017, Ukraine has stopped supplying electricity to the territory of the LPR, leaving a number of large industrial enterprises of Ukrainian jurisdiction without power supply, which until that time had continued to work on the territory of the LPR.
Thus, step by step, the Ukrainian authorities finally severed all ties with Lugansk and Donetsk, gradually introducing a multifaceted blockade: water, transport, energy, economic…
Against the background of the development of the armed conflict, the parties are making efforts to organize a direct dialogue between Donbass and Ukraine.
Since June 2014, the work of the Contact Group on Donbass conflict has begun.
And on September 5, 2014, the "Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group with respect to the joint steps aimed at the implementation of the Peace Plan of the President of Ukraine, P. Poroshenko, and the initiatives of the President of Russia, V. Putin" was signed, which provided for an immediate bilateral ceasefire under OSCE monitoring, and also a number of steps for a political settlement of the conflict.
The key ones are: an inclusive nationwide dialogue, the release of all hostages and illegally detained persons, as well as the obligation of Ukraine to adopt two laws: "On the special order of local self-government in separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts" (on a special status) and on the prevention of prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.
However, during December 2014 - January 2015, Ukraine systematically avoided dialogue: on dates previously agreed upon the assistance of the OSCE, Denis Pushilin, who at that time represented the DPR at the Minsk negotiations, and me as well as the OSCE and Russian delegations, returned 5 or 6 times from Minsk having given up on waiting for the Ukrainian delegation. As a result, the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, designed to intensify the conflict settlement process, was agreed in the Contact Group only on February 12, 2015, after strong motivation given to Ukraine at the Normandy Summit, which was also held in Minsk on February 11-12.
However, even after the signing of this document, which determined that the process of a peaceful settlement should be completed by the end of 2015, it was possible to implement for today only a few provisions in the security sphere, and then only partially.
The change of political power in Ukraine also did not accelerate the process of a peaceful settlement - the current President Zelensky mostly acts on the principle of delaying the negotiation process, avoiding direct dialogue with Donbass while actively imitating intentions to achieve a result.
At the same time, Ukraine absolutely ignores the fact that the Package of Measures from the moment of declaration of its support by the UN Security Council and the inclusion of its text as an annex to Resolution 2202 (2015) acquires the nature of norms of international law and, in accordance with Article 25 of the UN Charter, is binding.
Nor did the Paris (2019) Summit give a positive impetus to the settlement process.
In the year that has passed since the summit, in a full sense, there is no result on any item of the Agreed conclusions.
The ceasefire was agreed and began to act even before the summit, on July 21, 2019. However, it is not possible to achieve its full implementation: the decision taken on July 22, 2020 on additional measures to ensure it was subsequently disavowed by Ukraine and its refusal to agree the joint inspections within the framework of the coordination mechanism.
The humanitarian demining plan and promising areas for the second stage of disengagement of troops were jointly worked out and previously agreed by the Donbass and Ukraine, but the decision was blocked by those normative legal acts of Ukraine that directly contradict the Minsk Agreements and create legislative obstacles for Ukraine to fulfill its obligations.
At the same time, the practice of disengagement of troops in Stanitsa Luganskaya clearly indicates that Ukraine is not ready to implement the Framework decision of September 21, 2016. By this decision, for the first stage of disengagement, 3 areas were identified, two of which were successfully disengaged within the agreed time frame, in October 2016, and the disengagement of troops in the remaining area in Stanitsa Luganskaya have been blocked by Ukraine for 3 years.
The implementation of exchanges of detainees is also blocked by Ukraine.
Paragraph 6 of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, as well as paragraph 1 of the Common agreed conclusions of the 2019 Paris Summit, provide for the release and exchange of conflict-related detainees on the basis of the principle of “all for all”, starting with “all identified for all identified”.
In the period after the summit, we can conditionally talk about the implementation of 2 exchanges. However, to the present moment, none of them has been completed due to Ukraine's failure to fulfill the so-called "procedural clearing" - the release of persons transferred in the exchange process from criminal prosecution in connection with the events in Donbass, as provided for in paragraph 6 of the Protocol of 09/05/2014 and paragraph 5 of the Package of Measures. In addition, this provision is secured by the obligations signed on December 23, 2019 and April 8, 2020 by the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Leonid Kuchma, and without this the exchanges have not been completed.
Moreover, the prospects for discussing new stages of exchange are also unclear due to the lack of prospects understanding for their implementation in the current state of the regulation of this area in a legislative framework of Ukraine.
Opening of the two additional checkpoints provided for in the Common conclusions was also disrupted by the Ukrainian side.
After the Paris Summit, it took more than 3 months for the Contact Group to discuss the parameters of the two new Lugansk-Schastye and Pervomaisk-Zolotoye checkpoints and to agree on a road map for their parallel preparations for the simultaneous opening. Further, an obstacle for the start of construction became obtaining security guarantees from the Ukrainian side for the entire period of construction. It took another 4 months to resolve this issue, and only in July it became possible to receive such guarantees from Ukraine for the period from 10 July to 10 November.
During the construction period, Ukraine constantly evaded a joint approach to the "zero point" to agree on key technical details.
As a result, ignoring all attempts at concerted action, Ukraine “solemnly opened” checkpoints, announcing a change in their functional purpose: Schastye was opened as a purely pedestrian checkpoint (in the road map it was approved for the passage of personal transport and trucks, primarily humanitarian cargo), and Zolotoye was opened for the passage of transport, including freight (agreed in the road map for pedestrians and personal transport). And such essential points as work schedule, shuttle bus for delivering pedestrians in the “gray zrea” of Zolotoye, where the distance between passport control points is more than 3 km, and the specifics of work in the context of countering the spread of coronavirus remained unresolved.
Ukraine is not ready to reach a reasonable compromise on this issue on the basis humanitarian criteria.
In addition, as it turned out later, the necessary work on preparing the infrastructure of the checkpoints for opening by the Ukrainian side was not completed – on November 29 we received a request from the Ukrainian side to agree on security guarantees for the design work to repair the bridge at the Lugansk-Schastye checkpoint.
Therefore, the assessment of the implementation of the 2019 summit’s conclusions is obvious - the lack of political will does not allow Ukraine to ensure its good faith participation in the Minsk negotiations, and effectively organize the implementation of its obligations.
I should point out that we, from our part, also face certain difficulties.
During the Minsk negotiations, the Republics had to make significant concessions and compromises. In fact, the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements is in itself the maximum compromise possible for the LPR. And when I return to the Republic after another round of negotiations, where I emphasize the complete readiness of the LPR to fulfill the obligations assumed by the Republic and give confirmation of such intentions in practice, I come across a complete misunderstanding on the part of fellow citizens. Why do we continue to work on Minsk Agreements implementation and try to get the same constructiveness from Ukraine, given Ukraine's obvious and repeatedly demonstrated intentions to avoid fulfilling obligations on the Minsk Agreements?
Does Ukraine need Donbass if Ukraine rejects it in every possible way?
With fear and anxiety, fellow citizens ask me questions: are we going back to Ukraine? Will we really have the Security Service and the Armed Forces of Ukraine here? Their fear is understandable: over the past seven years, our residents have received nothing from Ukraine except shelling of their houses, schools, hospitals, kindergartens, torture, violence and aggression, deprivation of their rights and freedoms, pensions, social guarantees.
How is the purposeful systematic infringement of the rights of some of its own citizens by Ukraine, their destruction in the moral and physical terms – by shelling from heavy weapons and aviation, economic isolation and deliberate deprivation of their basic humanitarian rights – correlate with the goals enshrined in the UN Charter? Is not “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”, which is provided on by part two of Article 1 of this Charter and in fact is the basis of friendly relations, ignored by the international community?
And, the most important question: isn't it time to dispel all doubts and ask these people themselves – does Donbass need Ukraine, which during these years of civil war and all sorts of blockades has already learnt to live without Ukraine?