Crisis in Ukraine’s Donbass region
- Since Moscow invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, pro-Russia rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions began seizing territory in Eastern Ukraine and held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.
- Since then, these regions within Ukraine have been witnessing skirmishes between the rebels and Ukrainian forces leading to the loss of over 14,000 lives, creating around 1.5 million registered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and destruction of the local economy.
- There are two Minsk agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2. Minsk 1 was written in September 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, i.e. Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE with mediation by France and Germany.
- Under Minsk 1, Ukraine and the Russia-backed rebels agreed on a 12-point ceasefire deal, which due to violations by both sides, did not last long.
- In February 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE and the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement, now known as the Minsk 2 accord.
- However, the provisions under the agreement have not been implemented because of the ‘Minsk Conundrum’.
Reason for Non – Implementation:
- Russia believes that the agreement asks Ukraine to grant the Russia-backed rebels in Donbas comprehensive autonomy and representation in the central Government.
- Only when this is done will Russia hand over control of the Russia-Ukraine border to Ukraine.
- Ukraine, on the other hand, feels that Minsk 2 allows it to first re-establish control over Donbas, then give it control of the Russia-Ukraine border, then have elections in the Donbas, and a limited devolution of power to the rebels.
- Ukraine believes the accord supports its sovereignty fully while Russia believes it only gives Ukraine limited sovereignty.
- Thus, the Minsk 2 agreement has been rightly criticised for being too hastily drafted, ambiguous and contradictory, making it difficult to implement.
Impact on Implementation
- One of the principal demands Russia has made of the West is the immediate implementation of the Minsk 2 agreement.
- While the agreement is far from ideal, it could be a baseline from which a diplomatic solution to the current crisis could be found and reviving it could be the ‘only path on which peace can be built’ as French President Emmanuel Macron has said.
- For Ukraine, it could help it gain control over its borders and end the threat of a Russian invasion for the time being, while for Russia it could be a way to ensure that Ukraine never becomes a part of NATO and ensure that Russian language and culture are protected under a new federal Constitution in Ukraine.