Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Donetsk People's Republic

Interview of Natalia Nikonorova for RIA News

08 October 2018
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    - How did the representatives of Kiev react to the change of the DPR representative in the contact group and political subgroup?

     - There was no acute reaction. I have been participating in the Minsk process for a long time, representing the Republic in a subgroup on political issues. We have previously met at the Minsk platform with representatives of Ukraine, the OSCE and Russian mediators. Natalia Sergeevna Mikhailova has become the new representative of the Republic in the political group. Speaking about the first meeting after the new appointments, I must say that there was a rather tense atmosphere. We understand that the Ukrainian party uses any reason, any change in order to further delay the negotiation process and not to talk about the essence of the issue. However, the meeting of the Contact group and the working groups took place. We will continue to work.

    - Will Kiev continue to use the change of DPR representatives in the contact group and the political subgroup to delay the negotiation process?
    - Of course it will. This is the tactics and strategy of the Ukrainian party at the Minsk negotiations. For some reason, everyone is interested in the reaction of the Ukrainian party to certain events, but there is a wrong approach to the issue from the wrong side. We are not interested in the reaction of the Ukrainian party, but rather whether the Ukrainian party intends to implement the Minsk agreements. There is a clear position of the Republics, which is based on the signed documents. There is a position of Ukraine, whose representatives say: “We have already completed everything according to the
Package of Measures”. Although in fact nothing works, not signed, not accepted, and if accepted, it does not work. In such a way acts the Ukrainian party. Therefore, we are much more interested in how to defend the interests of the Republic and such a movement of events in which Ukraine will fulfill its obligations.

    - As a DPR representative in the Contact group, what issues are considered paramount in the framework of the Minsk process?
    - The main, fundamental issues for the implementation of peace agreements are political. In order to implement the
Package of Measures, it is necessary first of all to implement political issues - the adoption of a normal, full-fledged law on the special status of Donbass, namely, changes to this law that would allow it to be fully launched. This is the decentralization - the introduction of appropriate amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, agreed with the Republics. It also implies the harmonization of amnesty procedures and the prevention of prosecution of persons participating in events in Donbass. Everything depends on it. And the final stage is the coordination of the modalities of holding local elections as the final point for the start of the border transfer procedure and further political settlement. Without fulfilling these political aspects, all other questions are of temporary nature. The group where it is most difficult to work, where it is  impossible to reach a compromise is a group on political issues. There the Ukrainian party makes every effort to slow down the process as much as possible. The another groups work more actively and productively, because these questions do not change the situation globally, they are tactical questions. There the negotiators have certain results. These are humanitarian issues, a large exchange of held persons, which occurred at the end of 2017, active work in the area of ​​missing persons. There are some good results in the economical group. Separately, I would like to note the repair of the South Donbass water pipeline, which was made possible by the work of the economical subgroup. And now, active work is making in coordination with the Ukrainian party - the payment of pensions for residents of the Republics. We hope that in the near future we will see results. The group on security issues is the most important group to date. Since the signing of the agreements, it has worked most actively, they have a lot of signed documents, framework agreements, amendments, because first of all we need to ensure the safety of our residents.

    - On October 11 expires the law on the special status of Donbass. The President of Ukraine submitted to the Parliament a proposal to extend it until the end of 2019. Will his parliament support him and how does the refusal to extend the law on the status of Donbass threaten?
    - We notionally say about “extension of the law”. In fact, it is a formal extension of the first article (it provides the introduction of a special procedure for local self-government in areas not controlled by Kiev). This extension is not important in itself; it is important as a signal from Ukraine that it is ready to continue the dialogue. When the first article expires, the field for dialogue disappears, without it all other topics can not be discussed. In the case of non-renewal, it will mean a gross violation of the peace agreements by Ukraine. Then the Republics will make a decision based on the situation. We have the Head of the Republic, which forms the foreign policy, and we will implement it. Again, the non-renewal of the law on special status means the breakdown of the Minsk agreements.

    - Why is there still no progress in adopting a law on special status or at least agreeing on a mechanism for its provision? What does the adoption of such a law mean for Kiev?

    -“Kiev does not want to coordinate any political issue with representatives of the Republics, not recognizing the fact that a non-international armed conflict arose in the territory of Ukraine. It is not profitable for Kiev to talk with Donbass as the another party of the conflict. In Kiev, they are trying to present everything that is happening, as a conflict with Russia, as an aggression of the Russian Federation, as the presence of mythical Russian troops on our territory. It is clear why it is done, there are certain benefits in this, including for President Poroshenko, and for representatives speaking at international platforms. They use the conflict to their advantage to obtain financial or political benefits, including that Ukraine remains on the agenda in the international community. Therefore, now agreeing on something in Minsk means for Ukraine to recognize that it has an internal conflict. That is why it refuses to provide the representatives of Republic at the negotiations with legal personality, that is why this question is so complicated. The representatives of Ukraine try to put on the agenda extraneous issues that are not within the competence of either the political or even the contact group.

    - With a constructive dialogue in Minsk, how much time is needed to implement the Package of Measures?

     - It is hard to say. But with the right will, the Ukrainian party makes decisions quickly. Even not with the will, but with the pressure, because today Ukraine itself is not a full subject of legal relations, but rather the object of pressure from the world community. As soon as pressure occurs, the Ukrainian parliament passes laws for 10 days, as it was, for example, with the law on special status. On September 5, 2014, the relevant documents were signed, on September 16 - the law on special status was adopted, and almost immediately it was sent for signature to the president. With the pressure, all other questions can be taken on the same urgent basis. Over time Ukraine is adopting more and more laws, by-laws, and norms governing relations with the residents of the Republics, and the amount  becomes more and more complicated. But as soon as Kiev feels that there is no way out, it is necessary to implement the Package of Measures, otherwise they will be completely isolated from the international community, the relevant decisions will be made quickly.

    - Elections of the DPR Head and Parliament are to be held on November 11. Representatives of the EU, the OSCE have already stated that this is contrary to the Minsk agreements. Can the holding of elections in the Republics affect the peaceful settlement, will the Republic be accused of disrupting the Minsk agreements?

    - The Ukrainian party will use every opportunity to blame the Republic for anything. But here there is no possibility to refer to any rule in the signed agreements and say directly: “Look, it’s written that these elections are prohibited”. There is no such norm. In the Package of Measures, only local elections are written and the need to coordinate the modality of the local elections between the two parties of the conflict. The elections announced today are the elections of the Head and Parliament. The Ukrainian party is now in an interesting position. On the one hand, they say that they do not recognize the Republics, they do not know such states, but they pay attention to the election of the Heads and Parliaments of the Republics. If they accuse us of violating the peace agreements, paying attention to the elections of the Heads and Parliaments of the Republics, then they de facto recognize our Republics. Therefore, the Ukrainian party is cautious. Yes, they are trying to say that these actions violate the Minsk agreements, but at the same time they understand that if they declare it , it turns out that they recognize the Republic and conduct a dialogue with us.

    - Do You plan to invite foreign observers to the elections on November 11?

    - The invitations of foreign observers is engaged by the Central Election Committee. Of course, we already have certain applications and proposals for the CEC, because we cooperate with European public and political figures, including, of course, our official partners - South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and regions of the Russian Federation, which have already sent inquiries, letters proposing participation as international observers. All this information will be transmitted to the CEC, whose representatives will send the appropriate invitations.

    - Representatives of which countries have already expressed the desire to participate as observers in the upcoming elections?

    - Representatives of Germany are very interested, there is already a proposal for participation from France, representatives of Italy also want to send applications for participation. Actually, in those states where Representative Centers are open, representatives of the public, academical, and political figures are actively showing interest in the electoral process.

    - Do you plan to send an invitation to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE?

     - The decision on it will be taken by the Central Election Committee. The OSCE/ODIHR is a very serious election observation organization. That is why in those points about the modalities of local elections, which are written in the Package of Measures, there is an indication that local elections should be monitored by the OSCE ODIHR, as well as follow its rules. We understand that there are fundamental documents to which any electoral process must comply, there are principles that are established by the international community. Of course, we tried to organize the electoral process in the Republics in full compliance with these principles.

    - If the representatives of Ukraine expressed a desire to participate as observers at the upcoming elections, could they do it?

     - The Republic is a legal state and follows the compliance with those standards that are established at the level of laws and by-laws. If any observers, who wish to participate in elections as international or foreign observers, meet the criteria established in the electoral law, acts of the CEC, the Council of Ministers, if they submitted the relevant applications on time, these applications are correctly issued, I think appropriate decision will be taken. We are following the legal path and it is our difference from Ukraine, where lawlessness and chaos live.

    - In the framework of the contact group, it was proposed to conduct an international investigation into the murder of the DPR Head Alexander Zakharchenko. When can we expect these results?

    - In fact, an international investigation has not yet been conducted. There was such an initiative on the Russian side, we supported it, because we are interested in the fact that as many representatives of the world community as possible join the investigation of this murder. We appealed to the Russian side for help in the matter of the presence and work of specialists of a certain orientation, we, unfortunately, do not have such specialists. But so far there is no response from the Ukrainian side to participate in the international investigation. We are still waiting a response from the OSCE. Our internal investigation is underway and there are already first results. We will submit them to the sitting of the contact group, as well as send relevant information to the Normandy format. There was a cautious reaction from the OSCE in terms of a proposal to organize some kind of control over this investigation at the level of a contact group, but there are no official response on this issue.

    - Klimkin called the Minsk agreement as profanation. How can You comment it?

    - If the Head of the foreign ministry calls the work carried out by official representatives from Ukraine, a profanation, in fact this is the attitude to the process and its delegates. On the other hand, we can agree that, in particular, on political issues, the work of the Ukrainian party is a profanation. Apparently, Klimkin simply called with their own names the instructions, which were given to the delegates of Ukraine to participate in the Minsk negotiation process: “Your actions is a profanation”. Our task is to make the work in Minsk not a profanation, that the Ukrainian negotiators take the most complete and honest part in the peace process on all points of the Package of Measures.