Updating Minsk Agreements is precondition for any further progress – Reznikov
The renewal of the Minsk agreements is a prerequisite for any further progress towards ending the war between Russia and Ukraine, said Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov.
"Ukraine has repeatedly demonstrated its readiness to restart the peace process. However, since implementation of the existing agreements is not possible in their present state, updating these agreements is a necessary precondition for any further progress," Reznikov wrote in an article for the Atlantic Council published on Saturday.
He stressed that Ukraine had fulfilled almost all the commitments undertaken at the Normandy format summit in Paris in December 2019.
"Since then, there have been two mutual detainee releases. We have designated 19 stretches of land for humanitarian demining, and four new areas for the separation of forces. For the first time since the conflict began in 2014, there has been a five-month ceasefire. Although imperfect, this ceasefire has unquestionably saved lives," Reznikov said.
He also recalled that in spring 2020 Ukraine strengthened its delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group with government members and heads of parliamentary commissions. In compliance with the Minsk Agreements, Ukrainian representatives of occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions also joined the delegation. In November 2020, we opened two new checkpoints in Luhansk region.
According to Reznikov, since summer 2020, our Russian opponents have used every pretext to keep the Trilateral Contact Group paralyzed and to renege on their obligations. Ukraine has presented its plan for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, but the Russian side has failed to present its vision.
"The key question now is whether Russia can be persuaded to embrace a modernized version of the Minsk Agreements or a new negotiation format entirely. OSCE representatives have raised this issue, as have our German and French partners. Ukraine is grateful for their support, but we must also note that these efforts have produced very limited results. Ultimately, progress towards peace hinges on Russia's willingness, or to be more precise, Russia's unwillingness, to end the conflict," the deputy PM believes.
Reznikov added that any possibilities for further safe steps within the framework of the existing agreements are practically exhausted.
"The word 'safe' is of paramount importance here. Ukraine will not agree to anything deemed unacceptable by Ukrainian society that could destabilize the present situation further. We will not risk a full-scale war in Eastern Europe," he said.
The deputy PM said that anticipated political changes in the weeks and months ahead could provide fresh impetus to the stalled peace process.
"During the coming year, Chancellor Merkel is set to step down. Her departure will leave Vladimir Putin as the only remaining member of the original quartet behind the Minsk Agreements. Elsewhere, Sweden has now taken over the position of OSCE Chair. In America, Joe Biden will shortly enter the White House. These new leaders will inherit the Ukraine peace process, much like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron," he explained.
Reznikov said that while recognizing the complexity of this peace process, Ukraine hopes that the coming changes in political leadership may create new opportunities.
"We expect the incoming Biden administration to take on a more active role in negotiations. Since the U.S. is a member of the OSCE, their representatives could join the teams of moderators engaged in various subgroups along with representatives of the UK and Canada," he noted.