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Interview of Natalia Nikonorova for RIA News

Negotiations on a peaceful resolving of the Donbass conflict have lasted for the five years and have not yet brought any significant results. At the same time, the authorities of the self-proclaimed DPR insist that there is no alternative to Minsk agreements. To implement them, only the political will of Kiev is needed. There is a chance to achieve peace in Donbass after the presidential election in Ukraine. The DPR Plenipotentiary in the contact group, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Natalia Nikonorova, told RIA News with which of the candidates there is a chance to engage in dialogue.

- Negotiations on a peaceful conflict resolving have lasted for five years. Is there any chance they will bring results this year? What will it depend on?
- Speaking objectively, all conditions have been created for a peaceful settlement, there are documents that regulate the settlement process, everything is prepared from the technical and organizational side. The problem, due to which there has been no serious progress for five years in the Minsk process, is no political will of Kiev. At the same time, we should not forget that in 2019 Ukraine will hold presidential and parliamentary elections, and we still hope that more interested people in a peaceful dialogue with Donbass will come to power.
But so far, a work of the contact group in Minsk is regularly delaying by the actions of Ukraine’s party, which purposefully does not want to have a dialogue. Kiev that did not fulfill any of its obligations under the Complex of measures, while on our part all the necessary actions are taken. Nevertheless, only in the case of a reconsideration of the Ukraine’s attitude to peaceful settlement, it is possible to achieve positive results in the work of both contact and subgroups.

 

- How do you evaluate the current truce? Why it is not possible to achieve a complete ceasefire?

- The ceasefire regime certainly helps to minimize hostilities, however, it is not possible to achieve an absolute silence. Kiev regularly violates the truce. For example, at the last meeting in Minsk, a flagrant act of military aggression of the Ukrainian armed forces against employees of the state enterprise “Water of Donbass” was discussed. They were injured of varying degrees of severity during snow removal work in the area of Vasilievskaya pumping station.
Such for these reasons we insist on an early agreement on a package of additional measures to strengthen and control the armistice, as well as a clause that would regulate in detail a provision of written additional security guarantees in the areas around civilian infrastructure. I would like to remind that the first option of additional measures was proposed at a meeting of political advisers No. 4 by Mr. (Alexander) Hug (former deputy head of the OSCE mission in Ukraine) as such control measures on the eve of "school" truce in 2017. It included several practical mechanisms, including the development of disciplinary measures against violators and measures to respond to violations. Republic fully supported this option.
Despite the reluctance of the Ukrainian party to coordinate and sign the package of measures, the republics will not stop to insist on their early adoption. This is a matter of principle and an important mechanism for effective control of the cease-fire regime.

 

- At the end of March, presidential elections will be held in Ukraine. Do you expect changes in the course of a peaceful conflict resolving after them?
- We hope that those leaders who will come to power as a result of elections in Ukraine will not repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Obtaining all the tools for a peaceful settlement, for almost five years, the Poroshenko regime has dealt only with the conflict escalation. He played on this situation, asking for financial or other help from West countries. Over the past four years, he has shown himself from the most negative side, hindering the peace process. Let us recall Poroshenko’s recent statement that he is not going to give Donbass a special status, although this measure is the cornerstone of a political settlement prescribed in the Complex of measures, without which it will not be possible to resume peace in the long term.
Based on this, it is obvious that advances in the Minsk process are possible only if those who replace the Poroshenko’s team change their attitude towards Kiev’s obligations and finally begin to fulfill them.
 

- Some candidates for the presidency of Ukraine said they are ready to negotiate with Donbass. Is the republic ready for direct negotiations with Kiev representatives? With which of the candidates is there a real chance to negotiate a conflict resolving?
- At the present moment, we do not see those individuals who would declare their sincere desire to resolve the situation by fulfilling Kiev’s obligations under the Minsk agreements. From time to time we hear the statements from candidates about their alleged readiness to negotiate on Donbass. At the same time, none of the candidates voiced the main condition for such negotiations - they should be conducted in order to implement the Complex of measures by two parties to the conflict - Kiev and the Republic.
In any case, we, of course, would like to believe that the elections in Ukraine will be fair and democratic, and the election results will bring to power those people, who will be able to hear the voice of Donbass people. But the chances for it, in our opinion, are pretty small.
 

- Has the Minsk negotiation process exhausted itself? For example, Tymoshenko spoke about the Budapest negotiation format. And what format, in your opinion, can be the most productive?
- The negotiations format is determined by the Minsk agreements, which are non-alternative. It provides that any proposals and projects relating to Donbass should be coordinated in Minsk primarily by the direct parties to the conflict - republics and Kiev. Therefore, to invent any other formats does not seem appropriate. While representatives of Ukraine are trying to invent a bicycle, people die in Donbass, military operations are underway, the economic and transport blockade continues. Therefore, at the moment Kiev must realize that in any case it should fulfill its obligations under the Complex of measures. And it is better to start it as soon as possible

- Do you plan to open new DPR Representative centers in other countries this year? How much and where?
- Work in this direction does not stop, we negotiate with public, political and other leaders from Western Europe and other countries. But at the moment it’s not worthwhile to cover this activity, because pressure can be put on our foreign like-minded people. We will announce the opening of our new centers whenever possible.

- Are there any negotiations with other countries on the possible recognition of the DPR?
- This work is ongoing. We regularly receive delegations from foreign countries, we have a bilateral dialogue and clarify forms of interaction. At the moment, we can already talk about cooperation in various fields - economic, cultural, sports, scientific and, of course, the information sphere. The more foreign countries will talk about the DPR as a peaceful and democratic state, the higher chances of recognition of the republics by the international community.