Normandy format talks in Minsk (February 2015): Alexander Lukashenko (not on the picture), Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Petro Poroshenko took part in the talks on a settlement to the situation in Ukraine. Wikipedia
Unrecognized diplomacy: Donbass republics to speak at UN for the first time
Germany is well known for its diplomatic work not just within the European Union but also as a mediator and coordinator in solving conflict and discord in other countries. German involvement in negotiations on the conflict in East Ukraine is of special interest, since Ukraine is a country which is located in the geographical center of Europe. It acts as the main official point of dissent between Russian and the West.
The internal confrontation between Kiev and Donbass (the Donetsk and Lugansk regions) started after the coup d’etat in February 2014 which was organized and carried out during the so-called “Maidan revolution”. After Maidan, the newly minted Ukrainian authorities launched an assault on Donetsk and Lugansk, in particular by sending armed formations and military equipment to the region without any legal prerogative.
The inhabitants of the Ukrainian eastern regions rejected this state of affairs imposed by Kiev which led to a declaration of independence by Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. The Ukrainian leadership, supported by the US and EU, chose a military option for resolving the conflict and launched an anti-terrorist operation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
In an effort to resolve the crisis, the “Normandy format” was established at the meeting of the heads of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine on June 6, 2014 at the Château de Benouville in Normandy during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings, also known as the D-Day.
The French President at the time, François Hollande, assembled a peacekeeping mission after the events in Crimea and the start of the war in eastern Ukraine. Hollande sent an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to take part in the ceremony and enlisted the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who agreed to support his peacekeeping efforts. Hollande also invited the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.
The longest meeting of the leaders of the four states took place on February 11-12, 2015 in Minsk. During the negotiations, which lasted 17 hours, a Package of Measures was adopted to implement the Minsk Agreements on the peaceful settlement of the Donbass conflict.
Since then, three more meetings of the leaders of the “Normandy Four” have taken place: In October 2015 in Paris, in October 2016 in Berlin, as well in December 2019 in Paris. During their last meeting on December 9, 2019, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Common Conclusions comprised of a number of specific steps necessary to advance the settlement.
Nevertheless, today, a year after the Normandy format meeting, only one of the agreed steps can be considered as partially accomplished: The exchange of conflict-related detainees. The conflict in Donbass is still on-going and at least 13 000 people have been killed on the territory of Donbass, including 149 children. About 30 000 people were injured. In other spheres of the confrontation very little has improved. Kiev suspended all the pensions and social payments for the Donetsk and Lugansk inhabitants, there is an economic, humanitarian and transport blockade from Ukraine, and, moreover, the Ukrainian parliament has deprived the residents of Donbass of some inalienable human rights and freedoms endorsed in international law.
One of the main reasons which representatives of both Russia and Donbass always offer as an explanation for the ineffectiveness of the Minsk agreements, is the lack of direct dialogue between parties in the conflict. Those are, according to the Minsk documents, Kiev and the unrecognized republics.
Such a position, though totally different to the opinion held by Ukraine and its US and EU allies, no doubt makes sense as the conflict had actually broken out exactly because of the refusal by the new Ukrainian authorities to enter into dialogue with its eastern regions.
Therefore, on the eve of the latest Normandy format meeting’s anniversary, the Permanent Mission of Russia to the United Nations put forward an initiative to convene the UN Security Council with the participation of representatives from Donetsk and Lugansk. The UN secretariat has supported the idea and so for the first time ever, representatives of the Donbass break-away republics will have an opportunity to speak to an audience of UN members.
Those who want to support the event by joining as observers are invited to the online streaming broadcast starting at 10:00 (NY time zone)/ 16:00 (Central European Time).
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