Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

Strategic miscalculations for the sake of symbolic PR achievements

On March 13, 2020, Agreements to establish a body that fixes the subjectivity of the Temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine, and Russia in the status of guarantor-observer, on an equal basis with Germany, France and the OSCE were signed in Minsk. This is stated in the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group, which was held in Minsk on March 11, 2020. The Protocol notes that the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group to establish an Advisory Board will be signed on March 25, 2020 after consultations with representatives of the OSCE, France and Germany. According to the text of the document, the criteria and procedure for appointing members of the Board are determined by Ukraine, certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Federal Republic of Germany, the French Republic and the OSCE independently.[1]

Andriy Yermak commented that this is not the steps that create the legal field for the recognition of representatives of the Temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine: "It is not about the direct negotiations. We are talking about creating a platform where citizens who live on controlled and non-controlled territories can communicate about issues that are agreed in the package of the Minsk Agreements". According to him, the mechanism for selecting representatives of the platform from the controlled and non-controlled territory of Ukraine is still being developed. Yermak also did not answer the question of who will propose representatives of the Temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine and whose idea was to create an appropriate platform. [2]

On the same day, the former head of the Institute of National Remembrance, Volodymyr Viatrovych and a Deputy from the «European Solidarity» faction appealed to law enforcement agencies due to the agreements signed in Minsk on the establishment of the Advisory Board with the participation of representatives of Ukraine and militants of the so-called «LPR and DPR». «Kuchma and Yermak made a high treason in Minsk. I will appeal to the SSU, NABU and State Bureau of Investigation with the requirement to open criminal proceedings», Viatrovych posted on Facebook. The Deputy also asks to investigate the involvement in signing the document of other officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky.[3]

It is worth noting that Andriy Yermak is a difficult and interesting person. Yermak has now taken two key positions for Zelensky: he is the head of the Office and chief negotiator with Moscow-Washington. And most importantlyYermak is really the closest person to the President. During the first months of Zelensky's presidency, the name of Andriy Yermak was not familiar to the general public. It was first sounded loud on September 7, 2019. That day, Yermak became the person who coordinated the return of Kremlin prisoners to Ukraine. It turned out that Yermak had been privately negotiating with the Kremlin about a prisoner exchange since August. And he made a deal.  Yermak's involvement in negotiations with the Russians marked a "change of strategy" in the Kremlin itself. Instead of the "architect of Novorossiya", unyielding Surkov, the curator of Ukraine became a "good Ukrainian", deputy head of the Putin's administration, Dmitry Kozak. [4]

But why does the creation of the Advisory Board will mean a strategic defeat for Ukraine?  Firstly, this step changes the architecture of negotiations in Minsk, blurring Russia's role as an aggressor. This "Board" will be the first format where Moscow will be an outside observer, on equal rights with Germany, France and the OSCE. And in this way, an international armed conflict can easily turn into an internal "civil conflict". Not only Russia, but also the Germans and French who sympathize with it, will be able to say:"You should negotiate further without us, since now you have a dialogue with Kyiv and the "LPR and DPR".

 But the powers of the Advisory Board may become an even bigger problem. Based on the name, this body should not have real powers, but should only provide advices, and there’s no guarantee that they will be used. But according to Andriy Yermak's statements, it seems that everything will be different. It seems that Temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine (ie – Kremlin) will have the opportunity to form part of Ukrainian legislation. Even if not directly. And, finally, the last danger of the agreements agreed by Yermak: they don't have a word about security! In conditions when the situation at the front has only worsened in recent weeks, and shellings are taking place even in the areas of disengagement of troops, such a decision is impossible to explain. Thus, the situation around the last Trilateral Contact Group meeting showed - the Ukrainian side has completely stopped fighting to at least try to create its own order regarding negotiations related to the Russian-Ukrainian war. [5]

As expected, the Kremlin head Taras Kozak, together with Andriy Yermak, managed to reach agreements that could have disastrous consequences for Ukraine. After all, in case they will be adopted the Russian Federation will reasonably be able to get rid of responsibility for the aggression committed against Ukraine. Since in these agreements Ukraine recognized Russia in the status of «guarantor-observer» along with OSCE, France and Germany, Moscow can reasonably demand from the West, and from the same guarantors of the "Normandy Format", the lifting of sanctions imposed against it and question the claims of the Ukrainian side in international courts regarding the commission of Russian aggression. After all, the Ukrainian authorities recognized that Russia is the «guarantor» of the settlement process of the «internal-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas» and it turns out that «they are really not there», and there are only Russian «guarantors-observers». Russia is no longer an aggressor, not a party to the conflict, and, moreover, not a belligerent. Now Russia is the «guarantor of peace» in the Donbas, the same guarantor as in Transnistria, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and other conflicts. That is, a «peacekeeper» now, and after that, what can be the claims to Russia from the international community for its peacekeeping?    

Trying to reach a compromise with Russia in this way, Ukraine will find itself in a bind, and the problem of the conflict will remain unresolved. Therefore the danger of adopting the document is quite clear.