On February 7th, 2023, Giorgi Kardava, one of the hosts of the “Alt-Analytics” program on the pro-Kremlin Alt-Info, spoke about the Minsk Agreement:
Giorgi Kardava, Alt-Info: “What was the Minsk agreement all about? The Minsk agreement meant that Russia would return these territories [Luhansk and Donetsk] to Ukraine, and Ukraine would simply not join NATO. In other words, these territories, which would be returned to Ukraine, would have the right of veto.”
The claim that according to the Minsk agreement, Russia would return Donetsk and Luhansk to Ukraine in exchange for refusing to join NATO is false. In fact, none of the Minsk agreements entailed Ukraine’s refusal to join NATO or giving Donetsk and Luhansk regions veto power over foreign policy.
The first Minsk agreement was signed on September 5th, 2014. It consisted of 12 points. According to the agreement, there should be an immediate mutual ceasefire, which the OSCE mission would monitor. The OSCE mission would also monitor the situation on the border of Russia and Ukraine, where security zones would be created. In addition, Ukraine had to begin the process of decentralization, which included the adoption of a law on the provisional self-government of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. According to the agreement, early local elections were to be held in these constituencies based on this law.
The agreement also entailed the withdrawal of illegal armed groups, military weapons, fighters and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine, the immediate release of prisoners, the release of responsibility for the events in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the continuation of the national dialogue, the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Donbas, the development of a program for the recovery and reconstruction of the economy of the Donbas region and the protection of the safety of the participants in the consultations.
The ceasefire agreement was breached shortly after it was signed. On September 19th, a memorandum was signed that included a protocol for the implementation of the Minsk agreement, including the creation of a 30-kilometre buffer zone, a ban on military aircraft over the safe zone, the withdrawal of foreign fighters and the implementation of a ceasefire agreement, which would be monitored by an OSCE monitoring mission, however, within days of the agreement, separatists supported by Russia continued to attack Donetsk airport and other areas controlled by Ukraine.
The second Minsk agreement was signed on February 12th, 2015. It was a continuation of the first agreement and included 13 points. Among them were the immediate cessation of fire from February 15th, the creation of a security zone and the withdrawal of specific military equipment from this zone under the supervision of the OSCE, the start of a dialogue on the conduct of local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, the withdrawal of foreign fighters and weapons and the disbandment of illegal armed groups, the exchange of prisoners, and amnesty for participants of the developments in Donetsk and Luhansk.
According to the second agreement, no later than 30 days after the signing of the document, the Rada of Ukraine had to pass a resolution defining the territory to which the special regime would be extended in accordance with the Law on Temporary Autonomy. Local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk districts were to be held under Ukrainian legislation and OSCE standards and monitoring.
The second Minsk agreement included a clause according to which, after local elections, full control of the state borders with the conflict zone would return to the Ukrainian government.
The agreement also discussed the constitutional reform to be carried out in Ukraine by the end of 2015 in the direction of decentralization and the granting of special status to Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the terms of which were defined in the agreement as follows:
- Exemption from punishment, harassment and discrimination of persons associated with the events that took place in individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- The right to self-determination with regard to language;
- Participation of local governments in the appointment of heads of prosecutors’ offices and courts in individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- The possibility for the central executive authorities to conclude agreements with the relevant local authorities on the economic, social and cultural development of individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- The state shall support the socio-economic development of individual areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- Assistance from the central government to cross-border cooperation between the individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and regions of the Russian Federation;
- The creation of people’s militia units [police] upon the decision of local councils in order to maintain public order in individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions;
- The powers of local council deputies and other officials elected in snap elections, appointed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine according to this law, cannot be terminated.
Ukraine adopted the aforementioned law on individual areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions on September 16th, 2014, and it included the above-mentioned points, and it entered into force after holding local elections in accordance with the agreement. In the same year, the decentralization reform aimed at strengthening local self-government began. It should be noted that neither the aforementioned law nor the decentralization reform included the right to grant any type of veto to the Donetsk and Luhansk districts on the country’s foreign policy. Despite Russia’s efforts to persuade Ukraine to negotiate with the separatists and increase their autonomy, in 2022, weeks before a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba once again ruled out granting special status and veto rights to separatist-controlled regions.
Despite the steps taken by Ukraine, Russia and its supported separatists continued to violate the terms of the agreement. Russia did not withdraw its armed forces and equipment from Donbas and prevented the work of the OSCE monitoring mission. Russian-backed separatists arbitrarily changed the date of local elections but postponed them after pressure. Finally, the so-called elections were held by separatists on November 11th, 2018, in violation of the terms of the Minsk Agreement. The so-called elections were not held in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, the OSCE mission was not allowed to observe, and instead, Russia invited representatives of far-right parties as observers. Consequently, its result is not recognized by Ukraine, the European Union and the US.
As can be confirmed from the facts listed above, none of the Minsk agreements included the condition of Ukraine’s refusal to join NATO or granting the right to veto the country’s foreign policy under conditions of increased self-government for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. On February 21st, 2022, 3 days before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Ukraine, and on February 22nd, Vladimir Putin announced that the Minsk Agreement no longer existed. In September 2022, Russia held the so-called referendum on the territories occupied by it, including Donetsk and Luhansk districts, on the basis of which they were annexed.
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