1) There is a public discussion of the "Russian Donbass" doctrine now in the DPR. Doesn't this doctrine contradict the Minsk Agreements, which assume that the DPR territory is an integral part of Ukraine?
First of all, I would like to note that it is not very correct to put the question this way. I think you follow the Minsk process and you know how things are at the moment. For almost 6 years of negotiations, the Donetsk People's Republic has systematically and consistently broadcasts a clear position. We are fully committed to our obligations under the Package of Measures, we are always punctual and prompt in the implementation of all the agreements reached on the Minsk platform and from time to time we call on the Ukrainian party to do the same. However, Kiev preaches exactly the opposite approach: over the entire period of the Minsk process, we have not seen a single impulse to start a conscientious and constructive work on the Minsk agreements implementation. On the contrary, the Ukrainian leadership is doing everything possible to delay and confuse the already extremely complicated negotiation process. And this is not to mention the fact that in 2020 we were faced with a situation when Ukrainian representatives began to speak especially actively, openly and everywhere that the Minsk Agreements need to be revised, "modernized", about the existence of certain "B plans" and others strange ideas. These and many other statements of Ukrainian leaders, as well as their legislative activity, which directly contradicts the Package of Measures, further aggravated the stagnation in the negotiations.
In such circumstances, it is quite obvious that no one should wait from Ukraine any quick and effective measures to implement a peaceful settlement. Moreover, it is now generally not clear what is on the mind of the Ukrainian leadership: they are literally one step away from leaving the Minsk process in principle.
But it does not mean that while Kiev will determine what to do next, the Republic should humbly wait and hope that the Ukrainian side will have political will to implement the Package of Measures. We, of course, remain in the Minsk process, fulfill our obligations and assess the Minsk platform as the only opportunity to achieve peace in Donbass today. However, we also continue to build and develop our statehood, we very carefully monitor the mood in society. And here I want to emphasize that the moods and aspirations with which our residents went to the streets in 2014, now, in 2021 the people of Donbass are more and more determined to actively integrate with Russia.
In addition: in the Package of Measures, namely in the notes to paragraph 11, the possibility of developing cross-border cooperation with the Russian Federation is enshrined. Therefore, there is absolutely no contradiction to the Minsk Agreements in the idea of creating a doctrine "Russian Donbass".
Moreover, a doctrine is not a normative legal act, not a law or a decree. This document sets a certain vector of development, is a natural and objective reflection of the attitude that the inhabitants of the Republic have been maintaining and strengthening for more than 6 years and with which, among other things, the Minsk agreements were signed. We want to follow the same path with our big Motherland, we remain commited to our common values and ideals, we honor our common past and intend to create a common future.
2) Has the number of attacks on the DPR territory by artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased in 2020 or has decreased compared to 2019?
In 2020, the number of ceasefire violations more than halved: 2,130 violations were recorded in 2020, and 4,958 cases in 2019. This decrease is due to the fact that in July 2020, measures were finally agreed to control and strengthen the ceasefire. However, they were effective for only about two months, until the moment when Ukraine disavowed these agreements, refusing to fulfill the main one – the interaction within the framework of the coordination mechanism. Since then, the armed formations of Ukraine have continued shelling our territories, and there are both wounded civilians and dead servicemen of the DPR People's Militia.
Nevertheless, it was two months of more or less full-fledged action of the ceasefire control measures that ensured such a significant difference in the number of attacks compared to 2019, which confirms the effectiveness of these measures if they are fully and conscientiously observed by both sides. Therefore, each time at the Contact Group meetings, we call on the Ukrainian side to immediately agree on a new package of measures to control the ceasefire regime. However, Kiev systematically finds excuses for refusing to reach this agreement.
3) Should we wait for a detainees exchange between Ukraine and LDPR in the near future? When exactly and by what formula?
First of all, I want to recall that due to the Kiev’s fault, the previous two exchanges still cannot be considered fully completed. Until now, 50 out of 51 people transferred by the Ukrainian party in the framework of previous exchanges have been deprived of their rights and freedoms, since we have not received documents confirming the implementation of the procedural clearance from the Ukrainian representatives. This is a gross violation of not only the agreements reached at the Minsk site, but also the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Moreover, we do not really understand how it is generally possible to talk about exchanges or about any other spheres of conflict settlement, if Kiev has not yet answered the fundamental question that we have been asking for more than six months: is Ukraine ready to implement the Minsk agreements? To clarify Kiev's position, back in October last year, we sent the Ukrainian side a Roadmap for the implementation of the Package of Measures, which, if adopted at the level of the Verkhovna Rada and other executive authorities of Ukraine, could help bring the negotiation process out of stagnation. However, the Ukrainian leadership is not capable of even such an elementary step. Even just reaffirming their commitments is a huge problem for them, what to expect from Kiev when it comes to directly fulfilling these commitments. And then we have another question for the Ukrainian negotiators: within the framework of what documents, under what procedures and in what status can exchanges be carried out, if they are provided for by the Minsk agreements, which Ukraine does not know if it is ready to carry out?
Nevertheless, even in the conditions of such a Kiev’s destructive approach to the fulfillment of its obligations, one must understand the peculiarity of the issue of exchanges: this is not just about some abstract lists and procedures - it is about people. It is out of considerations of mercy, and also taking into account the fact that there are political figures in Ukraine who, unlike the official authorities, showed humanity and constructive participation during the negotiation process, the leadership of the Republic made an important humanitarian decision. With the mediation of Viktor Medvedchuk, some Ukrainian citizens held in prison will be transferred to the Ukrainian side. Moreover, I note that this group included women, elderly and sick people who had nothing to do with armed actions against the Republic and would not be able to harm Donbass upon returning to Ukraine.
This decision was made exclusively as a gesture of humanism and mercy on the eve of one of the main Christian holidays - the Epiphany Day. This day is a good occasion to remember the importance of generosity, humanity and helping one's neighbor, despite the fact that certain people in high offices in Kiev diligently ignore such simple but fundamentally important concepts.
4) What is your prediction: how will the arrival of Biden, which actually pushed Kiev to the war in Donbass in the spring of 2014, to the White House affect the fate of our region? Should we expect a new escalation of the war?
Unfortunately, there is a very evil irony in what’s going on in Washington: in a state that declares democracy as its main value, things are happening that have nothing to do with democracy. Nevertheless, it is too early to make forecasts regarding the arrival of Mr. Biden in the White House and the consequences for the situation in Ukraine. We remember very well how actively Biden was involved in the supervision of Ukraine when he was US Vice President. Moreover, there are already forecasts that Kurt Volcker will be appointed the US ambassador to Ukraine, and this also does not add optimism in terms of the prospects for a political peaceful conflict settlement. However, Biden is now facing a lot of internal, much more priority and urgent issues than the Ukrainian one. Therefore, at the moment, we can say that no matter what changes take place in Washington and no matter how Ukraine's course changes in this regard, we have known for a long time that anything can be expected from Kiev except, in fact, the implementation of the Minsk agreements. And we are ready for any provocations, both in terms of armed escalation and on the negotiation track.
5) What is your attitude to the attempts of the Ukrainian side represented by Aleksey Reznikov to involve the USA, Canada and Great Britain in the peace negotiation process?
Instead of reaffirming its adherence to the Minsk agreements and finally starting an open, direct and effective dialogue with us, the Ukrainian leadership prefers to speak to media with unfounded statements, which often repeat almost word for word the rhetoric of the former Ukrainian authorities. An example is the attempt to involve representatives of the United States and Great Britain in the negotiations on Donbass, which Poroshenko had repeatedly undertaken earlier, and now Vladimir Zelensky and his team. Kiev is trying in every possible way to avoid the implementation of the Minsk Agreements in the form in which they were previously signed by both parties to the conflict and, moreover, approved by the guarantor countries and the UN Security Council. However, these attempts were not crowned with success for Poroshenko. The situation is similar for Zelensky.
For a peaceful settlement, only one factor is of fundamental importance – direct and constructive dialogue directly between the two conflict parties: Kiev and Donbass. However, it is precisely such a dialogue that the Ukrainian authorities are trying to prevent, thereby nullifying the possibility of achieving real results at the Minsk site.
6) Kiev is aimed to hold local elections in Donbass on March 31. What do you think of it?
To correctly answer this question, you need to understand what kind of elections we are talking about. If you are talking about holding local elections in the territory temporarily controlled by Kiev, then, unfortunately, we cannot influence the development of events there. Rather, we could intervene, but for this we would have to use methods that run counter to peace plans – and at the moment we remain committed to these plans and do not want to endanger the lives and health of citizens.
But if we mean statements of the Ukrainian authorities about the alleged need to hold local elections in the near future on the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic, then this is another question.
It should be noted here that Ukrainian representatives often deliberately distort the true causes of Donbass conflict, presenting everything as if the main goal of the people living here is to hold local elections, which means they need to be held as soon as possible. However, this is the most obvious manipulation that has nothing to do with reality. Indeed, the conflict arose because of the rejection of the values imposed by the Kiev authorities and the desire of Donbass people to live by their own rules. Accordingly, the conflict can be resolved only by granting Donbass a special status and enshrining it on a permanent basis in the Constitution.
But, unfortunately, the Ukrainian party continues to believe that it will somehow be able to cheat and get away from the main issues of a political settlement or distort the main essence of this process. In addition, as noted above, at the moment the negotiation process is in stagnation due to the fact that the Ukrainian side has not yet confirmed its commitment to the Minsk agreements.
So, Kiev openly ignores all our attempts to unblock the negotiation process in the form of the proposed version of the Roadmap for the Package of Measures implementation. We sent our draft Roadmap back in early October last year and have not received any response yet. This approach of the Ukrainian negotiators very clearly illustrates the situation on the Minsk platform: even when there is a specific, detailed proposal containing a real opportunity to start moving towards peace and in line with the Minsk agreements, Ukraine simply prefers not to notice it. And in exchange to promote some of their ideas divorced from reality, seasoned with absolutely delusional and provocative statements in the media.