Kiev Approves Steinmeier Formula

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Journal Title: The Current Digest of the Russian Press

Issue Edition: Vol. 71, No. 39-40

Author: Antonova, Atasuntsev et al.

Kiev Approves Steinmeier Formula

KIEV ASKS FOR INTEGRITY FOR A HUNDRED YEARS. (By Yelizaveta Antonova and Aleksandr Atasuntsev. RBC Daily, Sept. 24, 2019, p. 6. Condensed text:) . . . Ukrainian presidential aide Andrei Yermak told the Levy bereg [Left Bank] publication about an initiative to sign a large-scale international treaty protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We have an idea, which is now being floated at various talks, that the settlement of the [conflict] situation [in eastern Ukraine] would culminate with the signing of a sweeping international treaty involving all the biggest players***who would for years – and even better, for centuries – secure our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Yermak said.

According to Yermak, the US, Great Britain, Germany, France and China must be party to the agreement. He didn’t specify whether Russia would be included in the list of participants.

[Ukrainian President] Vladimir Zelensky’s aide commented that he thinks the opening of offices of international organizations in Ukraine should be a necessary element of guaranteeing compliance with the treaty, “since we already have the experience of taking major steps under defunct documents and guarantees since gaining independence.”

“The question is: What would we put into this agreement? As a lawyer, whenever I negotiated an agreement, I would always look at clauses that would give me the opportunity to assert my rights, including in court,” Yermak said, noting that the document should stipulate consequences for noncompliance with the agreement.

Former Ukrainian president-turned-oppositionist Pyotr Poroshenko commented on the statement. “Now they are saying we need a powerful comprehensive security system; an agreement that would reliably protect Ukraine’s interests. There were two reliable security agreements: the North Atlantic Treaty and the Warsaw Pact,” Poroshenko wrote on Twitter.

“The treaty [that would protect the interests of Ukraine] is called NATO. Sign it and join it – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” the ex-president commented.

Yermak was unavailable for comment on Monday [Sept. 23]; he flew with Zelensky to the US to attend the UN General Assembly session.

Zelensky’s team is trying to take a creative approach to the text of the package of measures to implement the Minsk agreements [for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine; see Vol. 66, No. 37-38, pp. 3‑6, and  Vol. 67, No. 7, pp. 3‑7 Trans.], said Oleg Ignatov, deputy director of the Center for Political Conditions. “A literal reading of the document does not sit well with Kiev, because it requires Kiev to permanently establish a special status for the Donetsk Basin in the Constitution of Ukraine. In this regard, ideas are raised from time to time about various roundabout maneuvers like international agreements that would consolidate the parties’ obligations to satisfy all the other negotiating parties and at the same time allow Ukraine to drop the subject of a constitutional amendment,” he explained. However, that proposal is not supported by the “Normandy Four.”

Expanding the existing [negotiating] formats is immaterial, Ukrainian political analyst Vladimir Fesenko believes. “Negotiations are getting hung up not on whether the US should participate there – it already is, unofficially – but on Moscow’s insistence that the law on special status be enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution,” he said.

Vladimir Zelensky and members of his administration have advocated expanding the “Normandy format” before. For example, on July 8, the Ukrainian president invited [Russian President] Vladimir Putin to meet in Minsk along with the US, Great Britain, Germany and France. Commenting on Zelensky’s proposal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the existing international format for negotiations on Ukraine (i.e., the Normandy Four, which includes Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) “has already been agreed upon and has a chance to achieve progress under the new conditions, and it’s important not to scatter attention.”      

Commenting on Yermak’s statement for RBC, Maria Zakharova, official spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that no one is discussing a new format.

The first concrete steps in a long time toward implementing the Minsk agreements were expected last week. The Trilateral Contact Group for the settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine met in Minsk on Sept. 18 [see Vol. 71, No. 38, pp. 3‑5]. Representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donetsk Basin republics were supposed to hash out two fundamental issues: a schedule for the phased withdrawal of troops in southeastern Ukraine, as well as a common wording of the “Steinmeier formula,” which proposes that the law on special status of the Donetsk Basin take effect after elections in the region that are recognized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as honest and free.

However, Kiev refused to sign the formula at the very last moment, despite preliminary agreements.

In addition to the idea of a new international treaty, Yermak said that Kiev “will never allow the federalization of Ukraine.” He also said that, “if we take the Minsk agreements, [Kiev] would not have signed them in this form” and “the special status of the DPR/LPR [Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics] is not a subject of negotiations either in Minsk or in the Normandy format.”

He did not specify whether Russia would be included in the list of participants. “Andrei Yermak’s proposal is not feasible; moreover, it does not solve the disagreement at the center of the Minsk agreements: the issue of including the status of the Donetsk Basin in the Ukrainian Constitution,” Ukrainian political analyst Vadim Karasyov commented. “The Minsk agreements are also a treaty, and they were signed and put to a vote in the UN Security Council, although they do not contain security guarantees for Ukraine,” the expert said.

Russia will most likely continue to insist on compliance with this already signed treaty, and so will France and Germany, Karasyov believes. “Minsk remains the legal venue for resolving the conflict in the Donetsk Basin,” Karasyov added.

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