Ukraine crisis: What are the Minsk agreements and why they could help avert a Russian invasion | world news
The Minsk Accords – named after the capital of Belarus where they were signed in 2014 and 2015 – attempt to secure a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. ‘Ukraine.
They also drew up a road map for the elections in the occupied regions of Luhansk and Donetsk and a plan for the reintegration of the territory into the rest of Ukraine.
However, the interpretation of the agreements by Kyiv and Moscow is fundamentally different.
The Ukrainian government sees them as a way to reunify Ukraine and fully restore Ukrainian sovereignty, but with some delegated powers given to both regions.
By contrast, the Kremlin believes the accords enshrine a process that would see a Russian-aligned administration in Lugansk and Donetsk and special status granted to them before they are reunited with the rest of Ukraine.
This would ensure – like a Trojan horse – that Russia retains influence over the country and that Ukraine can never be truly sovereign.
Duncan Allan, a former British diplomat and associate member of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, calls this irreconcilable divergence the “Riddle of Minsk”.
What are the main points of the Minsk agreements?
There are 13 points in the more recent of the two agreements, Minsk 2, which was signed in 2015.
Nine of the points relate to the management of the actual conflict in the occupied territory such as a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, an amnesty for those involved in the fighting, an exchange of hostages and detainees and the withdrawal of “all foreign armed formations, military equipment and also mercenaries” from Ukraine.
This would cover what Ukrainian officials say are private, regular Russian military personnel.
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A ceasefire is in place but it is breached most of the time, with fire fired from the separatist side towards Ukrainian forces based along the so-called Line of Contact which divides the two sides.
The other four points concern politics, this includes a dialogue on local elections, a temporary law to give special status to Luhansk and Donetsk and the restoration of “full control” over the Ukrainian-Russian border by the Ukrainian government.
What is the main sticking point?
According to Mr. Allan, the central problem of the Minsk agreements is the irreconcilable interpretation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Ukrainians believe that their country is fully sovereign. But the Kremlin wants this sovereignty to be limited by using its influence over the two currently occupied regions to influence wider Ukrainian decision-making through the “special status” granted to them.
“That has always been the danger of the Minsk 2 agreement,” Mr Allan said in an interview.
“It amounts to the status of the special status. Russia demands that the Ukrainian authorities grant a very extensive autonomy or social status to the occupied regions of Donbass which would then be officially reincorporated constitutionally into Ukraine, but would in fact be a Trojan horse within the Ukrainian political system and controlled by Russia, which would therefore be able to control Ukraine from within,” he said.
What role does the international community play?
France and Germany played a key role in negotiating the Minsk agreements with Russia and Ukraine through a group called Format Normandie. It provides a mechanism for the four countries to sit together and discuss – a tactic that helps reduce misunderstandings and build relationships.
Yet after almost eight years of trying, there has still been no breakthrough. As tensions reach their most dangerous level yet, French President Emmanuel Macron has tried to breathe life into the Minsk Accords process as a tool to try to prevent a much bigger war between Russia and Ukraine. .
However, his efforts have so far failed to yield results.
What do the Ukrainians think?
A big concern in Ukraine is that Russia’s military buildup around their country will panic Western powers trying to force a Russian interpretation of the Minsk Accords on the government in Kiev as a way to defuse the crisis.
Ukrainian officials warn that such a move would trigger street protests, create internal instability, or even topple the president – a scenario that would leave Ukraine weak and exposed to Russian influence even without the need for military action.
Mr Allan said: “This idea of special status is opposed by a large majority of Ukrainians. Any Ukrainian leader who even appears open to negotiation on the issue of special status would face intense domestic opposition and may well be ousted. of his duties.”