Outcome of Talks: Two Presentations
by Kennedy Applebaum
August 27, 2015
Edited August 29, 2015
Were the talks in Berlin peace talks, or war talks?
TASS News Agency gives one unsettling answer, while Fort Russ presents another still more ambiguous one.
According to TASS, Konstantin Yeliseyev, a senior Ukrainian official, has suggested that Francois Holland and Angela Merkel drew a “red line” against Moscow at Monday’s trilateral meeting in Berlin, where the two European leaders met with Kiev regime head Petro Poroshenko to discuss compliance with the Minsk 2.0 peace agreements. This took place in the absence of Vladimir Putin, creating an unfair venue that was bound to exacerbate tensions.
And so it has. The French and German leaders, according to this Kiev official, presented a red-line ultimatum: If Putin fails to convince the two Donbass Republics to cancel their elections planned for October 18 and November 2, the penalty against Russia will be “not only sanctions”.
Not only sanctions? And what exactly is that? Would Merkel and Hollande dare creep any closer to an all-out war with Russia? It seems more likely that Konstantin Yeliseyev has misrepresented the statements of the two European leaders. His report is presented in the following article:
Kiev says Ukrainian, French, German Leaders Laid Down
“Red Lines” for Russia
August 25, 2015
KIEV / Talks between leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine in Berlin on Monday focused on “red lines” Russia must not cross, a senior Ukrainian administration official, said on Tuesday. “It is very important that we have discussed red lines that, if crossed, could prompt a resolute reaction from the international community, including the European Union, and this refers not only to sanctions,” Konstantin Yeliseyev, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, told a news briefing in Kiev.
Yeliseyev did not specify what kind of “red lines” had been set. “This information is not yet in the public domain,” he said, noting however that “one of these lines” was “holding fake elections” in east Ukraine’s self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia “should exert pressure” on leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics so that “they prevent or cancel such elections”, Yeliseyev said. If local elections take place, he added, “they will not be recognized, posing a serious threat to the Minsk process.”
Local elections in east Ukraine’s Donbas and constitutional reform are key elements of the February 12 comprehensive action plan to fulfil the Minsk accords worked out by leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in the search for peace in the embattled region. The deal, announced after more than 16 hours of discussions between Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel in the Belarusian capital, envisaged immediate and full bilateral ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and people’s militia starting from February 15. This was to be followed by withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of military engagement by at least 15 kilometres (9 miles), prisoner release and agreement for international observers to monitor the truce. Among the terms of the deal were also a commitment to grant wider self-rule to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and calls for talks on their long-term status.
Kennedy Applebaum Comments: The alleged ultimatum to cancel Donbass elections is at best inappropriate, at worst reckless. The DPR and LPR planned their elections with the intent to comply unilaterally with Minsk 2.0. It was an effort to save the failing agreements by compensating for Kiev’s noncompliance. The Ukrainian parliament still has not implemented proper local election laws as prescribed by the Package of Measures. Minsk 2.0 require those laws to be approved by representatives from Donbass.
If Minsk 2.0 does not guarantee locally organized elections, it has no meaning at all, and would not be the agreement Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky signed. That agreement, while requiring that local elections comply with the laws of Ukraine, also mandated that the laws of Ukraine comply with the Minsk Agreements. Since representatives from Donbass were never consulted in the creation of Ukraine’s election laws, it is Kiev that is violating Minsk, not Donbass.
Putin, in any case, can’t be expected to take action against the Republics. The Kremlin has no legal means to operate within the DPR/LPR, and is not entitled to force decisions on the governments of Donetsk and Lugansk. Since Moscow has no official role in the administration of the DPR/LPR, it is absurd to expect Putin to take actions he is not entitled to take. And by what means would Putin persuade the Republics to cancel their elections? Would he send in Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov, sometimes known as “Putin’s puppet master”, to strong-arm DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko? (See What is the DPR Without Alexander Zakharchenko? )
Only the DPR and LPR have the right to make this decision. If local elections were not allowed, then as far as autonomy is concerned, Minsk might as well not have happened. Elections under Kiev’s laws would not only violate Minsk, they would spell political and cultural suicide for Donbass.
The ultimatum posed by Konstantin Yeliseyev and attributed to the two leaders of Europe would spark a dangerous escalation of tensions. Such a threat would drive Putin into a corner, betray the trust of Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky, and annihilate the entire spirit of Minsk. How would Merkel and Hollande respond if, in a reciprocal move, Putin threatened penalties beyond sanctions against Germany and France if Poroshenko failed to comply with Minsk? The Western media would react vehemently. The US State Department might even threaten a first-strike nuclear preemtive attack.
Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky have stated they will hold elections despite any threats from Kiev.
A Fort Russ discussion of the same Berlin talks paints a different, and still more ambiguous, picture:
Will EU push Kiev Back to Minsk II,
Or is it EU Duplicity?
by Olga Shelkova
translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski
August 27, 2015
Calling Petro Poroshenko to the carpet in Berlin right on Ukrainian Independence Day showed not only the degree of the actual independence of the country, but the real extent of the independence of Europe. Outwardly, of course, everything looked pretty decent – “Bad boy Pete” was chided for violations of the Minsk agreements and ordered to make peace with Russia. In fact, this isn’t entirely true.
On the one hand, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel made it clear that the EU will insist on the fulfillment by Ukraine of the Minsk-2 agreements that were reached. The Chancellor of Germany, stressing that the ceasefire in Donbass is not respected, that the different parties constantly claim violations of the ceasefire, and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the separation line has not been carried out, said it is necessary “to finish, finally, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line”. In turn, French President Francois Hollande, noting the lack of progress on the issue of the ceasefire, said that the countries of the Normandy format should ensure that the residents in the east receive legal representatives and that their interests are not ignored.
In addition, the head of the German government, promising to report to Putin about the results of the talks, stressed that “it is impossible to refuse ties with Moscow, even though meeting with Putin in the quadripartite format didn’t happen.” Literally a few days earlier, French foreign Minister L. Fabius, in an interview with JDD, said: “The Minsk agreements, for which we share responsibility, defined the conditions under which Ukraine could return to correct relations both with Russia and with the European Union. This is our compass.” This position is very constructive, if not for a few “buts”.
Firstly, Europe has not refrained from indicting rhetoric, playing the role of the judge ,and of persistent attempts to qualify the events in Ukraine as a war with Russia.
The above-mentioned L Fabius promised “to remind them both that they cannot do anything else than fulfill that which was promised, otherwise they will be published.” The hypocrisy is obvious, since diplomatic vehicles from EU countries covered the putschists from the “Berkut” charge, and the fiery speeches of European politicians from the rostrum of the Maidan went around the world. And if someone is to be considered a party of the conflict which led to the civil war in Ukraine, it is the Europeans themselves.
Secondly, at the final press conference following the talks, neither Merkel nor Hollande denied the outright lies of Poroshenko that “Ukraine is committed to implementing the commitments in respect to the ceasefire, cooperation with the OSCE, the withdrawal of heavy equipment, and the fulfillment of humanitarian issues”. There was no confusion among European leaders and the gallant “we” in the opus: “We declare clearly that today, unfortunately, the Russian Federation and the militants that it supports represent a common threat to peace and stability in the region”. Presumably, they agree with these words.
But if the lack of refutation of the outright lies during the press-conference can be attributed to the exclusive manners of A. Merkel and F. Hollande and the requirements of diplomatic protocol, then the “amazing” blindness of the leaders of leading countries of the European Union regarding the actions of the Kiev regime suggests that they condone the aggressive plans of Kiev.
In just a few hours before departure to Berlin, at the parade in honor of independence day, Poroshenko quite frankly admitted that just the night before, the largest group of tanks, howitzers, armored vehicles, and artillery in the history of Ukraine was sent to the war zone. Before the end of the year, “the peacemaker” Poroshenko promised this year to give the army 300 armored personnel carriers, 400 BMP, 30 thousand missiles, ammunition, increase defense spending, and to continue the wave of mobilization called “mogilization” [tomb-ization or grave-ization – J. Arnoldski] by the people.
Heavy guns are not only not taken away from the line of contact, but continue to be used for the brutal shelling of Donbass cities. According to the Deputy Commander of the militia of the DPR, Eduard Basurin, in only the last week preceding Poroshenko’s visit in Berlin, Ukrainian punitive forces “released 520 projectiles from MRL’s, 422 artillery shells of a calibre of 152 and 122 millimeters, 116 tank shells, and 581 mortar shells with a caliber 82 of 120 millimeters.” While writing these lines, the author’s sister from Gorlovka called and reported that on the night of August 24-25, immediately after the false assurances Poroshenko, around 20 shells fell where she lives and destroyed several homes, two schools and a kindergarten.
Contrary to the provisions of the Minsk agreements, the transport blockade of Donbass has been strengthened. On August 17, the National Security Council of Ukraine adopted a decision to close several transport corridors to DPR and LPR. The need to ensure security during attacks motivates the Ukrainian side to take this step. But what stops the punitive forces, who have since March banned the delivery of food to the rebellious republics, from stopping the shelling?
The plans of Kiev to effect a large-scale offensive against Donetsk are more and more clearly visible. Plans of the General Staff to destroy the republics were transmitted by representatives of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to the militia of Novorossiya, and on August 24, fighters recorded that the UAF is removing minefields in order to allow the passage of military equipment. Ukrainian politician, V. Volga, reported on his blog on Facebook that hospitals in Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Zaporozhye are preparing to receive a large number of wounded.
However, such blindness of Europeans is not surprising, since on the Ukrainian side in the civil not only mercenaries but also military personnel from the EU countries are involved. According to the newly appointed Ambassador of Ukraine to the USA, V. Chaly, Ukraine receives new weapons “including lethal weapons, and no one can deny this to a sovereign Ukraine. Another thing that is not acceptable is to publicize the list of countries, but it’s more than a dozen states from Europe. We have different levels of military-technical cooperation, and this is developing at the current stage.”
The Austrian journal, Contra Magazine, confirmed this information, and writes that “For a long time supplies of arms from the West have been going to Ukraine. EU governments and the US deny this. Nevertheless, Poroshenko said that Kiev received 500 units of special equipment from abroad.”
Local residents of the DPR and LPR, as well as the militia have reported a sharp increase in the use of unknown weapons of foreign manufacture by Ukrainian punitive forces, the calibers of which far exceed what is permitted by the Minsk Agreements.
Thus, with one hand Europe holds P. Poroshenko back from ripping into battle, and with the other hand rushes him weapons to continue the war against his own citizens. The EU is torn between the desire to secure the safety of its own borders, forever getting rid of the unreliable partner always asking for money, and striving to keep in power the puppet regime falling into financial abyss, which it supported.
Whether A. Merkel and F. Hollande successfully held Poroshenko back from a suicidal offensive will be seen the coming days. In any case, it will not be decided in Kiev, or even in Berlin, but in Washington.
August 29, 2015 Update:
It appears Kiev official Konstantin Yeliseyev was not entirely wrong about Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, as the following article indicates:
Merkel and Hollande Call Election in Donbass
Threat to Minsk Process
Edited autotranslation by Quemado Institute
August 29, 2015
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande consider the elections in the DPR and LPR a threat to the Minsk Agreement, the two leaders said in a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin [on August 29]. The holding of local elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk self-proclaimed People’s Republics is a threat to the Minsk process, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a press release on the website of the German government. “Hollande and Merkel emphasized that contrary to the agreements, separate elections in the regions controlled by the separatists will pose a threat to the Minsk process,” stated the message.
At the same time, in the Cabinet it was noted that, “The two sides stressed their willingness to continue to work in the Normandy format together with the President of Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreement.”
Kiev has acted against the local elections in Donbass. Thus, the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko noted that their conduct will mean a “tough attack” [against] Moscow on the Minsk agreements.
Local elections in the entire territory of the breakaway republics are scheduled for October 18, 2015 [November 2 for the LPR — QI editor].
In a message posted on the Kremlin website, it says that Putin, in a conversation with Merkel and Hollande, expressed concern about the shelling by Ukrainian security forces in Donbass. He also mentioned the capacity of the Ukrainian armed forces along the boundary line. The Head of State stressed the need for direct dialogue between Kiev and militias and encouraged to remove the financial and economic blockade from Donbass. “The Russian president has confirmed [there is] no alternative to a political settlement of the conflict based on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, [and mentioned] the importance of Donetsk and Lugansk constitutional reform as agreed by Kiev,” it was said in a statement. In the Kremlin, they noted that the two sides had a “thorough exchange of views” on the local elections in the regions of Ukraine in 2015. The heads of Germany, France and Russia also discussed the future work of the “Norman Quartet”, including preparations for negotiations of foreign ministers and the summit.
Kennedy Applebaum Comments: Could Merkel and Hollande really have forgotten that the Minsk Package of Measures requires local elections be held this year in Donbass, that Kiev has failed to pass the appropriate election laws, and that the DPR/LPR have no choice but to abide by Minsk unilaterally and proceed with elections? By denying this evident truth, Merkel and Hollande are contributing to the confusion about who is and who is not complying with Minsk. Their misrepresentation of the status of the elections no doubt arose from the influence of Poroshenko, who was able to persuade them in the absence of Putin in a venue that contradicts the spirit of the peace talks.