Donbass is on the international agenda again. The reason is not aggravation, not casualties among the peaceful (as it happens, alas, usually) population, but the unexpected initiative of the Ukrainian side to resume the “settlement of the conflict.” On October 11, Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a proposal to hold a meeting in the Normandy format “in the near future”, announcing that this is “the only platform for achieving peace.”
The initiative was supported by the leaders of France and Germany. US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Moscow last week, among other things, raised the topic of Donbass as “relevant and important.” The result of the negotiations was the “commitment to the Minsk agreements” voiced by the American official, as well as the need to agree on the very “special status of Donbass”, which has been discussed since 2014. Subtotal: on the next agenda is a possible meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Quartet. In the future, there is a summit with the participation of heads of state (the last one was held in 2019).
What prompted the Ukrainian side to speed up the process? The speedy (in December) departure from the political arena of Angela Merkel, who played a significant role in the negotiation process, supporting Ukraine (“Kiev intends to hold negotiations before the end of Merkel’s term,” the statement of the Ukrainian representative Andriy Yermak)? Or the fact that the LPNR and Russia are using the time lost by Ukraine year after year to their advantage: the mass certification of Donbass residents and their recent participation – citizens of the Russian Federation – in voting in the State Duma? Or, finally, the fact that after seven years of “separation” from each other Luhansk and Donetsk tore down the border posts and announced the creation of a single economic zone with all the consequences?
With such a development of affairs with its “nihilistic-militaristic” position, as we can see, Ukraine remains farther and farther behind the “cordon”, reminding itself from time to time only by shelling and sabotage attacks …
How is the prospect of the resumption of negotiations perceived, as well as the newly announced idea of ”special status” in the Donbass itself? I will not be unfounded if I say – calmly, neutral, indifferent; even on the local news agenda, it passes by in passing. First of all, because the experience of the past seven years speaks for itself – nothing changes, or it changes according to the principle “one step forward, two steps back”. Let us at least recall how many years it took to implement one single point of the Steinmeier formula – the distribution of forces in the Zolotoe and Petrovskoe sections (which, in fact, turned out to be a fiction). What, then, can be said about something really significant, solving the problem at the root!
However, efforts to reach consensus should not be underestimated either. It is the negotiations that help periodically reduce the degree of hostilities. Another significant result is several exchanges of prisoners of war: more than two hundred people pulled out of the SBU dungeons. Or just such a concrete example: the ceasefire document signed in July 2020. The armed forces of the opposing sides then received orders to ban the use of any types of weapons, the use of aircraft, and so on. Thanks to the compromise, for the first time since the beginning of the war for a full six months, a relative calm was achieved at the front – an unprecedented case! It is noteworthy that during this time not a single civilian was killed or wounded (the losses among the servicemen, unfortunately, did not stop), while eight (!) Civilians died during the same six months before the ceasefire was concluded, 47 were injured.
Currently, negotiations on a possible summit are continuing. It is premature to talk about the “special status” of Donbass (a stumbling block and the only legally acceptable way out of the situation). Moreover, the loud words of the same US about this very “status” look rather like a signal signifying an ardent readiness for negotiations, nothing more.
And what, I am sure, there will be no doubt, if the dialogue takes place, is that certain results will be achieved. Even point ones. Let it be insignificant against the general background. But these are human destinies and lives. In a situation where there is no obvious way out of the negotiation deadlock, this is perhaps the most important thing.
Author – columnist “Izvestia”
The editorial position may not coincide with the opinion of the author