Donbass and Minsk deadlock

Why Ukraine is trapped in endless conflict

Donbass and Minsk deadlock

Donbass and &# 171; Minsk deadlock&# 187;

Will the discussion of the situation in eastern Ukraine in the UN Security Council help to resolve the conflict??

On Tuesday, February 18, at the initiative of Russia, an open meeting of the UN Security Council will be held with the participation of an OSCE representative to analyze the implementation of the Minsk agreements on resolving the situation in Donbass, the second version of which on February 12, 2020 marks exactly 5 years.

The incomplete “anniversary” of the Minsk agreements is taking place against the background of the absence of any tangible progress in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, the growth of mutual mistrust and misunderstanding. If the parties do not find a way out of the impasse in the near future, this could lead to the postponement or even cancellation of the summit of the leaders of the Normandy Four countries in Berlin, scheduled for April..

On the eve of the UN Security Council meeting, there were several signals that the Berlin summit was under threat. So far, no statements have been made about the exact timing of the Normandy format summit and from Russia..

But the signals that come from the Donbass from the contact line and the territories not controlled by Ukraine can be considered more specific and indicative. On February 17, the head of the “DPR” Denis Pushilin, for example, suddenly issued a special statement regarding the bullet wound of a civilian near Maryinka last Saturday. It quite fully reflects the sharply toughened rhetoric of the official media and individuals of the self-proclaimed republics in recent months. “Strengthening the escalation in Donbass, Zelensky, as if practicing his role according to the scenario, continues to pompously declare his peace initiatives to the international community,” the statement says, and it is reported that the appeal of the JCCC (Joint Center for Control of Compliance with the Armistice and Ceasefire) the window silence “1.5 hours remained unanswered”.

Injuries to civilians in Donbass are less common than among military personnel, but they happen quite often. The authorities of the self-proclaimed republics had not previously made special statements on this matter, but in this case, “on the ground” should have responded to the new peace initiatives of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky voiced at the weekend of the security conference in Munich.

The JCCC in Donbass has not functioned since December 2017, when, on command from Moscow, all Russian officers left it one day, and their offices in the uncontrolled territory were occupied by people from the armed formations of the self-proclaimed republics. This move was another attempt to force Kiev into direct contacts with the “republics.” Since then, the “officers of the JCCC DNR” are used only for propaganda and provocative purposes, they have no connection with the Ukrainian part of the JCCC, and all negotiations on “windows of silence” for humanitarian repairs of significant infrastructure or the evacuation of the wounded go through the observers of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine.

Minsk-2: No progress, no prospects

The recent talks in Minsk in the Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement of the conflict in Donbass have clearly demonstrated the fading of the peacekeeping process in eastern Ukraine.

The parties did not make a single decision, not even the prepared and agreed options were approved – for example, everyone agreed with the disengagement point of forces and equipment near the village of Gnutovo near Mariupol at the last meeting, but to approve these coordinates finally , in the form of at least some symbolic milestone no one became successful in the negotiations, they settled on the position “almost agreed”. Moreover, there is no clarity on the coordinates of the other two breeding points. Since the summit of the leaders of the Normandy format countries in Paris, there has not been a day without shelling and incidents at the front, the losses of the Ukrainian side exceed last year’s of the same period twice, in the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass, the number of victims at the front is traditionally carefully hidden, but it is impossible not notice an active campaign to discredit the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and attempts to highlight tendencies towards aggravation on the front line.

In the “DPR”, “state funerals” are extremely rare, until now only with the deaths of people promoted in the Russian television space, such as “field commanders” Arsen Pavlov (“Motorola”), Mikhail Tolstykh (“Givi”) or the former head of the “DPR” Alexandra Zakharchenko.

On January 24, a similar ceremony with a guard of honor and the presence of all the top officials of the self-proclaimed “DPR” with wide coverage on local TV channels was arranged in Horlivka for twenty-year-old corporal Nikita Fomin, who died the day before from a sniper’s bullet.

Until now, broadcasting the funerals of the victims on local TV channels is an obvious taboo, like any other negative news in the state media about life in the “republics”. The appearance of this video confirms that there is an aggravation on the military front and diplomatic.

Donbass and Minsk deadlock

In addition to the inclusion of a “comprehensive and complete ceasefire” regime in Paris before the new year, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky announced the expansion of the mandate of the OSCE mission, up to the introduction of night patrols..

However, until now, the mission’s activities in Donbass have not been unlocked even during daylight hours. At the last meeting in Minsk, the Ukrainian side drew attention to the fact that since January 1, 2020, the mission’s patrols did not allow the mission to enter the territories uncontrolled by Ukraine 146 times, a third of them fall on one checkpoint near the village of Novotashkovskoe in the Luhansk region, through which the OSCE monitoring patrols pass by white jeeps nevertheless, civil transport always continues to move.

In these conditions, the only relatively successful direction is the humanitarian one – in most cases, the parties still manage through the OSCE mission to agree on “windows of silence” for the work of repair teams in the event of damage to infrastructure and environmentally hazardous facilities that are significant for both sides..

And, of course, mention should be made of the two held in September and December 2019 of the exchange of detainees between Ukraine and Russia with the “LPNR”.

The third exchange was planned for February, but now only an exchange of lists is taking place in the Trilateral Contact Group, there are no signs of progress towards the next exchange in the near future. According to observers, there is no need to wait for visible breakthroughs and simply relatively public meetings of representatives of Ukraine and Russia in February – there are still sensitive dates for all parties to shoot people on the Maidan in Kiev and the beginning of Russia’s seizure of Crimea by law enforcement officers and unidentified snipers..

Donbass and Minsk deadlock

From the Ukrainian prison – to the “LDNR” cell

While the parties are trying to “digest” the consequences of the past exchange of detainees. Captured compatriots in the Soviet Union and Russia were always treated with suspicion; after returning to their homeland, they were often subjected to a “presumption of guilt” and a thorough check of the special services. Now a scandal is developing in the “LPNR”, which clearly demonstrates that in the “Russian world” nothing has changed in this regard..

Darya Mastikasheva, released during the last exchange of detainees, at the end of the second month in the “DPR” broke out in a series of statements that she was being forcibly held in the self-proclaimed republic and was not allowed to go to Russia to her child and mother.

With Daria Mastikasheva, according to her, 14 more people are being held from among those freed by Ukraine on December 29, 2019. In particular, Sergei Dolzhenkov (call sign “Captain Cocoa”), who organized the attack of the Anti-Maidan fighters on pro-Ukrainian football fans on May 2, 2014 in Odessa, was deprived of the right to travel to Russia. From this clash, the events that led to the tragedy in Odessa began..

Mastikasheva, a native of the city of Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, a three-time champion of Ukraine in taekwondo, was arrested in 2017 on charges of treason, she recruited ATO veterans to allegedly work in construction teams in Russia. Once in Russia, the “builders” heard talk that they were going to be used to simulate terrorist acts on Russian territory as an alleged sabotage group of Ukrainian veterans who fought in the Donbas.

This story sounds like part of an adventure novel, but almost simultaneously with Mastikasheva, her common-law husband, the former head of Boris Berezovsky’s security, Sergei Sokolov, was arrested in Russia. He and his accomplices were accused of trying to displace the leadership of the chemical giant PJSC Togliattiazot by planting weapons and explosives on the territory of the plant..

The trial in this case began only in January 2020, in early February all the defendants who cooperated with the investigation from the very beginning received their terms – Sergey Sokolov was sentenced by the Samara Regional Court to imprisonment in a general regime colony for three years and nine months for “illegal arms trafficking”.

Donbass and Minsk deadlock

Former Ukrainian prisoners are not kept in the “DPR” prison, they are guarded on a separate floor in hospital wards in one of the hospitals in Donetsk, and during the day they can go out into the city. The main limitation is that they cannot leave the uncontrolled territories, either to Ukraine or to Russia. Darya Mastikasheva made an attempt to leave, but was detained by the DPR Ministry of State Security and returned to Donetsk. Her statement after an unsuccessful escape to the MGB was accepted, but they promised to answer “in a month”.

Special services in the occupied territories of Donbass are not very responsive to any public pressure.

In Lugansk, in comparison with Donetsk, everything is always quieter, but in the situation with the last exchange, journalists there cannot find traces of a very loud prisoner – the Brazilian Rafael Lusvarga. A citizen of Brazil, who studied in Russia, graduated from the police academy at home and managed to serve in the French Foreign Legion, came to fight for the “LPR” and greatly inherited videos in which he, in particular, shoots a mortar at Ukrainian positions. After being wounded, he returned home and then quite innocently accepted a lucrative job offer … in Kiev.

As it turned out, representatives of the SBU made an offer to him – Lusvargi was arrested right at the airport upon arrival. The Ukrainian court gave him a term of 13 years, the judicial adventures of Rafael Lusvarga lasted quite a long time, his lawyer was able to win the appeal, as a result, the informal and non-standard Brazilian was sent to Luhansk on December 29 , 2020. And now they cannot find …

There is no acute political need for the further return of their people from Russia and the “LPNR”. Prisoner exchanges are now more likely a remaining lever of pressure from separatists on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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