Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Donetsk People's Republic

Natalia Nikonorova’s interview for information agency “RIA Novosti”

06 April 2021
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The situation on the contact line in Donbass has intensified, there is no progress in the negotiation process on the conflict settlement. There are more and more statements about possible escalation. What is the reason, why measures for assuring the ceasefire are not being followed, whether Kiev will resume active military operations in the region and dare to openly declare its withdrawal from the Minsk agreements. The plenipotentiary of the self-proclaimed Republic in the Contact group for conflict settlement in Donbass, the DPR Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova told in the interview for RIA Novosti.

— How can you describe the situation in the negotiation process on the conflict settlement in Donbass?

— The situation is complicated: crisis, deadlock at some points. From the one hand, Ukrainian delegation behaves in a strange way, from another hand - logically if its aim is to confuse, delay the negotiation process and create supposedly fulfilling its obligations. There are situations we still need to resolve. In particular, this is the refusal of the Ukrainian negotiators to sit down at the negotiating table with some members of our delegation, because they were convicted for "terrorist activities" in absence in Ukraine. From the Ukrainian point of view, all of us are terrorists who took part in the creation of the Republic or participated in the work of the authorities. Any of us can be convicted in absence, and we will have no DPR and LPR representatives in the Contact group at all. This is what Ukraine is striving for. And so far, no way out of this situation has been found.

 

— Is it new Kiev’s negotiating tactics? How has it changed with the change of authorities in Ukraine?

— When Vladimir Zelensky became the president of Ukraine, negotiators’ tactics was changed. They tried to demonstrate constructive proposals, negotiability, and peacefulness. The negotiation tone has become softer but this impression is delusive: no constructive, coordinated with us decisions were made neither under (former president of Ukraine Petr. - Ed.)  Poroshenko nor under Zelensky. And then the tactics of "peace-loving" began to vanish. It was replaced by the methods used by the previous negotiators: the maximum negotiation delay in all possible ways. But there are new methods, much worse. For example, attempts to turn the Contact group meetings into a farce. New delegates, representatives, experts, advisers are constantly being introduced from the Ukrainian side. If earlier, as a rule, one official representative and his assistant participated in the Contact group  meetings, now six to seven people are periodically present from the Ukrainian side. By introducing new faces, Ukraine is trying to confuse everyone and delay the settlement. Even the OSCE coordinators find it difficult to figure out what is happening on the Ukrainian side, who represents the position of Ukraine and what it the position.

 

— Did Joe Biden's coming to power in the United States influence the negotiation process and the escalation on the contact line?

 — Quite possible. Zelensky hopes for some kind of carte blanche from the United States, an authorization or power scenario approval. (Former US President Donald. - Ed.) Trump was more concerned with the country internal problems. Biden is associated with the coup in Ukraine, we heard his words about the president of the Russian Federation and we understand Biden is the US leader who is interested in destabilizing in Russia and its borders in order to weaken the great power.

Yes, the shelling from the Ukrainian side has increased, but hysteria, pressing of this backdrop in the media space has increased even more from Ukrainian side. They claim shelling, escalation, armed clashes, which creates a background Zelensky is going to use like we think.

 

— What for?

— In the media, this escalation (around the situation in Donbass - Ed.) is being whipped up by Kiev to ask the United States for attack permission, possibly for support like more weapons, instructors, and, of course, financial and management assistance.

 

— Will  Kiev dare on power scenario for settlement in Donbass?

— It is hard to say whether Kiev will dare. It depends on many factors: whether there will be permission from the United States, or support. Sometimes Ukraine commits absolutely illogical, hysterical acts, so this government can be bent on anything. But I can ensure the Republic is ready for this scenario as well.

 

— What actions will be undertaken in case of hostilities resumption from Kiev side?

— Firstly, we will defend ourselves. Secondly, during this time we have got a lot more diplomatic tools than we had in 2014-2015. There are channels and ways how we can inform the world community about what is happening in order to call to influence Ukraine and stop the escalation. As a representative of the DPR at the Minsk platform, I stand for a peaceful conflict settlement. But so far Ukraine has not taken a step towards this.

 

— What is probability of active military actions resumption?

— It is difficult to make predictions. The probability is high enough. Based upon the public statements and actions taken by Ukraine, this probability is higher than last year. The resolutions adopted, for example, by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, have become much more aggressive, and much harsher statements are made by the officials of this country. Now we evaluate the operational situation as rather dangerous, since there are confirmed facts of the equipment delivery to the contact line from the Ukrainian side. Besides the de-mining is carried out in front of the Ukraine positions for a reason, most likely in order to attack.

 

— Why do not ceasefire measures work?

— They do not work because Ukraine disavowed the most fundamental one - verification of the ceasefire regime violations. Moreover, Kiev was not even able to publish the additional measures list in the form it was adopted. Either it was published with changes, or it was completely deleted from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry website. But this is all the formal side. In fact, the measures do not work due to the lack of political will from the Ukrainian side. After all, one and a half to two months after the signing of the measures on July 22, 2020, they worked.  If there is will and orders, a silence will be observed. But it is not profitable for Ukraine at the moment. They benefit from escalation and aggravation. If silence is observed, it is necessary to start a political settlement, but this track is fully blocked by Ukrainian side. They escalate the situation to switch the Contact group’s attention to security issues.

 

— Is the DPR ready to accept Kiev's proposal for a new ceasefire, about re-confirmation of its commitment to the measures?

— There is no sense. Earlier, during the hot phase, there was a practice of declaring "thematic" ceasefires. But in July 2019, we achieved the declaration of the unlimited ceasefire regime. Unlimited means it must be observed at all times. But it was also violated by the Ukrainian side. Then we achieved the signing of measures for ceasefire regime strengthen, and we follow this agreement. But Kiev, obviously, does not. By announcing some “Easter” ceasefire the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Leonid Kravchuk, obviously suggests returning to the "thematic" truces, therefore to the conflict hot phase. And we propose to start fulfilling the terms of unlimited ceasefire and measures of its strengthen. If there was a ceasefire violation, investigation must be carried out.

As an example, if Ukraine really followed these measures, investigation upon the Aleksandrovka resident’s murder by a sniper would have been held long ago. If the Ukrainian authorities nevertheless conduct an investigation and apply sanctions to the perpetrator of this crime, this will be a goodwill demonstration for the starting  measures implementation signed in July 2020. But that what Ukraine is now calling for, all these statements about a new truce are nothing more than PR. We did not refuse an unlimited ceasefire. If Ukraine proposes something new, in fact, this is direct evidence that Kiev unilaterally left the signed agreements on measures.

 

— Kiev announced a settlement plan drawn up with the France and Germany participation. What is this plan? Was it sent to the Republics for discussion, was it presented in the framework of the Contact group?

—The current situation with all these plans from the Ukrainian side can be characterized diplomatically only as chaos and confusion. Ukraine brings confusion into the negotiation process consciously, purposefully, using the work factor of two platforms: the Normandy format and the Minsk one. One action plan draft from the Ukrainian side was submitted to the Contact group, another one to the Normandy format. And, what is the most interesting, these two documents differ from each other, and it is not possible to find out which of these projects contains the official position of Ukraine, since the Ukrainian negotiators simply do not answer our questions.

In this respect, I pay your attention that the main platform for settlement in Donbass is the Minsk one. It was created for direct dialogue and all aspects coordination of our further neighborhood with Ukraine. However, Kiev does not work in the Minsk format. The plan sent by the Ukrainian representatives does not correspond to the Minsk agreements, it contradicts them by 78 percent. But they do not discuss even it with us. There is no reaction at all from Kiev to our draft Roadmap for the settlement. There is a one-way blocking of all actions. The document presented to the Normandy format also does not correspond to the Minsk agreements. Besides, the so-called clusters for the Minsk agreements implementation, developed by France and Germany, also contain faults and nonconformities with the Package of measures. However they are still quite soft, only indicating general directions of actions. But the Ukrainian draft action plan, presented in both the Minsk and the Normandy format, are intended not to implement a Package of measures, but to completely rewrite it.

 

— Will Kiev dare to declare openly its withdrawal from the Minsk agreements, and what will this mean for the Republics?

—    While we are in the Minsk process and are trying to resolve how we are going to live in the neighborhood with Ukraine peacefully. In case Ukraine officially renounces the Minsk Agreements, it will also renounce all claims regarding Donbass.

 But I will say right away: it is not as easy to abandon the Minsk agreements as it might seem. The Package of Measures is a document approved by the UN Security Council. Not fulfilling it is not fulfilling their international obligations. The Ukrainian side states they need the Minsk agreements not in order to peacefully resolve the conflict, but to extend the sanctions against Russia. And if Ukraine officially refuses to fulfill the Minsk agreements, the sanctions will be applied to itself. That is why, Ukraine will not abandon these agreements yet as well as to fulfill them in good faith. It is beneficial for Kiev to maintain the status quo now, when they imitate their adherence to the Minsk agreements and their participation in the Minsk process. However, in reality they do not take any single step in order to implement at least one point of the Package of measures in practice.