Natalia Yurievna, do You think that the death of the DPR Head Alexander Zakharchenko will affect the Minsk process?
It is worth emphasizing that the death of Alexander Vladimirovich is a terrorist act committed by agents of the Ukrainian special services according to the opinion of investigation. Such actions clearly demonstrate the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities towards the Minsk process and their unwillingness to resolve the situation by peaceful means. The repeated terrorist acts of the Ukrainian authorities against the people's leaders of Donbass is an attempt to destabilize, bring chaos and confusion to our state. However, all these attempts are destined for failure: the tragic events have even more united the people of Donbass.
Despite the fact that there is an armed conflict here, we preserve humanity. When a member of the OSCE SMM in Lugansk region died, none of the participants in the Contact and Political Groups from the LPR and DPR doubted that his memory should be honored with a minute of silence. However, when we offered to honor the memory of the DPR Head with a minute of silence, the Ukrainian party defiantly left the meeting hall. Such an attitude clearly shows the absence of not only diplomatic etiquette, but also elementary decency. Of course, it escalates the negotiation situation and pulls the parties away from reaching mutual understanding.
Sadly, we still do not have an official assessment of the explosion in the center of Donetsk on the part of the Western guarantors of the Minsk agreements. Especially considering that the attack occurred near the hotel, where the members of the OSCE mission live. In addition, we support the initiative of Mr. Gryzlov to conduct an international investigation of this crime. We expect from the side of international mediators real measures to exert pressure on the Kiev authorities in the implementation of peace agreements.
Nevertheless, despite the still greater number of difficulties in communicating with the representatives of Ukraine, we, as before, will require of Kiev to fulfill each point of the Complex of measures. This document is the only peaceful way to get out of the conflict.
Instead of Denis Vladimirovich, You represent the Republic in the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk. Will the Republic's negotiating positions somehow change?
Our main task in the Minsk process is to compel Ukraine to fulfill its obligations under the Complex of measures in cooperation and in coordination with Donbass, as envisaged in the peace plan. For our part, we are ready for dialogue, ready to discuss and reach consensus, because we understand that only this way it is possible to get results in the settlement of the situation and the resumption of peaceful life. Readiness to take a similar measures towards Kiev is doubtful, which is the main problem and threat of the Minsk process. Representatives of Ukraine persistently do not realize that the Complex of measures is a binding document approved by the UN Security Council. No matter how much Kiev wants to avoid its obligations, it will not work, because the agreements confirmed in the Minsk agreements will still have to be fulfilled, and we will continue to make every effort to ensure it.
On October 11, the validity period of the law on the special status is coming to an end. How do you think, will Kiev resume its extension?
We began to raise the question of the validity period of the law on the special status of Donbass even at the time of its first formal extension. It is worth recalling that the first article of this law was extended only for a year, although the whole law had to come into force on an ongoing basis. Also, we repeatedly adressed to the OSCE coordinator in the political group and to the Contact Group members. However, to predict the further steps of Kiev is difficult, because the rhetoric of the Ukrainian authorities regularly disagrees with their actions, as they are dictated by the will of external sponsors of Kiev regime. We hope that the Western guarantors of the Minsk Agreements are aware that the termination of even the formal operation of the first article of the law on the special status of Donbass will actually block the further dialogue of the parties in Minsk. In this case the basis, on which the whole dialogue on political issues built, will disappear. And, if it does not exist, all other areas of the Minsk agreements will also be blocked.
However, the issue is not only about the terms of the law. Since its adoption, this act was not actually in the force for a single day, because the Ukrainian legislators did not define the territory of its dissemination in the text of the law, but applied the rule according to which the parliament reserves the right to separately adopt a resolution on the list of cities’ and towns’ names - the scope of the law. Ukrainian parliament initially adopted an inoperative law, which, moreover, was subsequently amended, effectively blocking the possibility of its entry into force. Of course, it was done without consulting the representatives of the Republics, in violation of the provisions of the Complex of measures.
Kiev must realize that there is nowhere to drag out the negotiation process - it is necessary to urgently begin work on preparing and agreeing with us the prolongation of the law on the Donbass special status of, which expires in less than a month.
All the guarantors of the Minsk process, except Russia, argue that the elections of the Heads of Republics are contrary to the Minsk agreements. What can You say about this?
Unfortunately, in four years we have become accustomed to such a one-sided approach from the side of Western mediators who routinely take the side of Ukraine in any issues relating to the situation in Donbass. Strictly speaking, the DPR elections do not in any way concern the Minsk agreements, which only indicate the conditions for municipal elections. Neither in the DPR, nor in the LPR, local elections were not held and are not planned to be held. The republics strictly fulfill their obligations and intend to hold local elections in accordance with the mechanism that was approved in the Complex of measures. Elections of the Heads and People's Councils of the DPR and LPR are not local, therefore they have nothing to do with the Minsk process and do not contradict it.
To the issue of local elections, Poroshenko repeatedly called the entry of UN peacekeepers as an indispensable condition for holding local elections in Donbass. Could You comment this position of Kiev in the context of the Minsk process.
In the Minsk agreements, in principle, there is no mention of participation in the peaceful settlement of the UN representatives. Initially, it was exclusively about the wishes of the Ukrainian party to introduce peacekeepers, who remained at the level of unfounded statements. Russia, having listened to such statements of the Ukrainian party and having taken into account that the OSCE mission in Donbass needs additional protection, has developed and submitted to the UN a draft Resolution. The RF draft remains the only document submitted to the UN in this regard. There were no official comments and recommendations on this project, including from Kiev. Therefore, Poroshenko's statements pursue more political goals than real plans for achieving peace.
How is the issue of holding local elections discussed in Minsk today and is it being raised at all?
We can begin discussing the specifics of the elections only after we have agreed with the Ukrainian party on the procedure for full-fledged entry into force of the law on the special status of Donbass, and Kiev will make corresponding changes to it.
In March 2019, Ukraine will hold presidential elections. Will Poroshenko take any action on the background of Donbass negotiations?
To date, the results of his activities are very poor because, having all the means to implement a peaceful solution to the conflict, Poroshenko talks about the war. It is advantageous for him to play with this situation, asking for financial or other assistance from the West.
The Minsk agreements are a diplomatic and military failure for Ukraine, with which in the Ukrainian society the name Poroshenko is associated. He has a catastrophically low rating, as for a presidential candidate for a second term. What strategy he chooses in this situation, it is difficult to say. However, no matter what Poroshenko will do, no matter how he will try to play on the theme of the Minsk process, he will obviously not be able to raise his rating in this way.
Will the change of the president of Ukraine contribute to a full-fledged settlement of the conflict in Donbass?
We hope that in these elections will win a person, who has the will to restore the country’s complete sovereignty from the external political influence. If it occurs, he will have all chances to implement peace agreements.
Who would like to see the DPR and LPR as a new president of Ukraine?
Now it is unlikely that we can trust at least to one of the candidates who announced their intention to run for president. We do not see any new face. But we can evaluate the activities of candidates we already know: everyone had the opportunity to show themselves, and as a whole it led to a coup d'état in 2014.
If rational and peaceful statements were by any candidate, it would be possible to draw attention to it as a potential figure for the subsequent process of dialogue. To date, there are no such statements; on the contrary, we hear openly militant speeches directed against the interests of the residents of Donbass. No Ukrainian politician said: "And let's fulfill our commitments."
To other topics. How many foreign delegations have visited the Republic since the beginning of this year?
To date, over 40 foreign delegations have visited our Republic. From year to year this figure is growing, which indicates the growing interest of representatives of other countries to the Republic.
For what purpose do they come, what issues are discussed?
Official delegations come from countries, which have strong relations with us, among them the LPR, the Republic of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We conduct a bilateral dialogue with the representatives of these countries, concluding relevant interdepartmental agreements, specifying the forms of interaction and harmonizing our legislation. Also, we are regularly visited by delegations of the subjects of the Russian Federation, who cooperate with us in the framework of integration processes.
Delegations of political and public figures from European countries also visit our Republic. With them we also establish cooperation in different areas: economical, cultural, scientific, and the most important - informational. Our foreign guests upon arrival to the DPR can personally see how the construction and development of our statehood is taking place, and upon returning home tell the citizens of European states the truth. The more it will be in the information space, the higher the chances of changing the opinion on the events in the Republics from the party of the world community.
Are there any proposals from representatives of the business to establish cooperation with the DPR?
Yes, in this direction there is also an active dialogue with entrepreneurs from foreign countries, and we have already first fruits. But there is a certain pressure of official authorities of some countries on investors who show interest in establishing direct contacts with our Republic. Therefore, I would not like to talk about specific names and spheres of business now. But, I repeat one’s more, steps in this direction are being made.
Which areas of the DPR economy are of the higest interest to potential investors?
Initially, there was interest in the agro-industrial sphere, but today it is heavy industry, metallurgy and mechanical engineering and light industry.
Recently, the court of Aix-en-Provence refused to abolish the state registration of the DPR Representative Center in France (Marseilles) without noticing violations of French and international legislation in the center's activities. Such a decision is definitely a big victory for the Republic, is not it?
Of course, this decision of the court can be called as a big event. It means that the authorities of European countries, despite the pressure from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, are beginning to more and more objectively and fairly perceive the Donetsk People's Republic, its people and the right to self-determination.
We unequivocally welcome the outcome of the case on the DPR Center in France and consider the positive decision is a merit of Mr. Hubert Fayard (Chairman of the DPR Representative Center in France) and all members of the Representative Center who not only defended the future of our Center, but also proved that the people of Donbass have a huge support abroad.
And what about the resumption of the work of the DPR Representative Center in the Czech Republic, which has not been working since the autumn of 2017?
Our representative plans to apply to the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic. Due to the events with our Center in France, we hope that the situation with the Czech Center can be reversed in a positive way.
Where do You plan to open new representative centers in other countries?
Here we should act rationally and wisely. There is such a thing as the art of "small steps", that's it, gradually we go along the chosen path. Work in this direction is not to be stoped, we are negotiating with public, political and other figures of different states.
Can You say how many states are currently engaged in this dialogue?
A certain understanding and possible results can be achieved with four states.
What can You say about the opening of the official embassy of the Donetsk People’s Republic in South Ossetia?
To date, relevant bills have been drafted concerning the diplomatic service, the relationship between the diplomatic and state civil services. There is a lot of legislation acts that directly affect the status of the embassy, ambassador etc. We have many details. Up to this moment, we had an absolute gap in the legislation on this issue. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a lot of documents. Some of them are already being done, they are submitted to the DPR People's Council, proposals are made to the DPR Head. In addition, we are constantly in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Ossetia. For our colleagues this issue is not so new as for us. And we try to rely on their experience, but at the same time our relationships are built on a full parity of interests.
Until the end of this year, is it possible to open the Embassy of the DPR in Tskhinvali and the Embassy of the RSO in Donetsk?
We really want to manage it. We hope it will happen.
And if we talk about the opening of embassies in the LPR and Republic of Abkhazia?
We have a close relationship with the Lugansk People's Republic. We are increasingly moving along the path of rapprochement and building much closer relationships. Now the unification of our legislation is on the agenda. We understand that there are specific features of each Republic, there is their leaderships, parliaments, territories, but we have the one people, therefore it is necessary to go for rapprochement with consideration of interests not only from the point of view of the state, but primarily from the point of view of the people’s interests.
With the Republic of Abkhazia we also carry out cooperation in certain areas, and it becomes more and more extensive year after year. Certainly, we can talk about the intensification of relations with Abkhazia, which can be traced even by the number and level of delegations that come to visit us.
And as a conclusion of our conversation, I would like to ask about the Humanitarian program. How would You evaluate its implementation?
The program is quite effective. Therefore, based on the results of 2017 and 2018, the directions for helping the residents of Donbass were enlarged. In particular, the areas of medical care have significantly expanded, because this direction is one of the most successfully implemented. Also, the public organization “Fund “United Donbass” is very effective. A huge number of complaints were received from residents of the Donetsk People's Republic, including the territory controlled by Kiev.
In the humanitarian program, there are important areas for preserving cultural, sporting and professional ties. People from both sides take part in events with interest. Only to the hot line of the humanitarian program more than 58 thousand calls from residents of Donbass have been received. The interest of the program is very large, and it is constantly growing.
Is it planned to expand the geography of the Humanitarian program? For example, it is well known that appeals for help from residents of Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and other regions of Ukraine have been received to the “Fund “United Donbass”.
There are many such appeals, and not only to the fund's address. We receive calls even from foreign citizens. Among them - former citizens of Ukraine who emigrated to foreign countries, there were calls from Israel, Uzbekistan, Belarus. But for us in the priority to keep the connections and support the inhabitants of Donbass.