Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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With what Zelensky is going to the Normandy meeting and what are the expectations of the population in the liberated and occupied territories of Donbas?

On November 15, it became known that the meeting of the leaders of the states in the Normandy format is scheduled for December 9, 2019. The purpose of the meeting is "a new sequence of implementation of the Minsk agreements". Negotiations on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas are conducted in the trilateral contact group in Minsk (Ukraine, Russia, OSCE), as well as in the Normandy format with the participation of representatives of Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia. Subsequently, this information was confirmed in the Office of the President of Ukraine. “President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky had a telephone conversation with President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron.

However, the key question remains: with what Zelensky is going to the Normandy meeting? The answer to this question was voiced by the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov in comments to journalists of "ICTV" and "Ukraine" TV channels. "First of all, we will make the exchange of prisoners in the format all for all,  cease fire on all sections of the demarcation line and find a way to solve the issue of how to hold elections, said Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine and stressed that the elections can be held only under Ukrainian law and after Ukraine regained control over the border with Russia.[1] In this regard, another question arises: how will voters vote in the territories occupied by Russia even under the conditions noted by the Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov?

According to a sociological survey conducted on April 18, 2014, territories controlled by Ukraine responded: 11.7% supported the introduction of Russian troops into Ukraine. 19.3%— in Donetsk region, the same-in Luhansk. In Zaporizhia - 4,2%, in Kherson-4,7%.  7% were ready to welcome the introduction of Russian troops. 12,6% of the  residents of Donetsk region and 11,7% - Luhansk. 2.1% are ready to join the Russian army. "What can make you take up arms?" only 1,7% in Donetsk region answered "Threat to your region from Russia". But depending on the formulation of the question, 11.9% and 1.7% are ready to resist the Russian aggressor in the same region. In the list of priorities, the threat to the region was inferior to other potential risks. The main priority was the threat to the life of the respondent and his relatives (53.2%). This is the most important for all residents of the South-East  from Kherson to Luhansk. The second most important (by a large margin) was the threat to territorial integrity — 10.4%. This was important for 6% of Luhansk citizens. And for 22% of residents of Kherson region.[2]

According to the results of a sociological survey commissioned by the "Ukrainian Institute for the Future", presented in the weekly "Dzerkalo Tyzhnia" in the occupied by Russia part of Donbas in 2019, only 5.1% of respondents on the other side of the demarcation line want to "be part of Ukraine as once". Another 13.4% now perceive territory controlled by "LPR and DPR" as a "part of Ukraine, but with a special status". Together is 18.5%, which is less than one-fifth of "LPR and DPR" residents see the future of their small homeland in Ukraine. Not too many respondents aspire to independence either - 16.2%. And 50.9% believe that the current territories of the "LPR and DPR" should become part of Russia, another 13.4% - "part of Russia, but with a special status". That is, the majority of residents of "LPR and DPR" — 64.3% — see this part of Donbass as part of Russia. However, 57.8% residents of the "LPR and DPR" in the course of sociological survey called themselves citizens of Ukraine. Passports of the "LPR and DPR" have 34.8%, Russia - 6.8 percent. Residents of the "LPR and DPR" decided on the name of the armed conflict in Ukraine. 76% "fully agree" and "rather agree" that the war in Donbas is an internal Ukrainian conflict (35.6 and 40.5%, respectively). 14.1% "rather disagree" and 9.3%. " completely disagree".

Other conducted sociological surveys indicate the following: 76% "completely agree" and "rather agree" with the fact that the war in the Donbas is the internal Ukrainian conflict. "Rather disagree" with this — 14.1%. 9.3% "completely disagree". What a "rich" land of Donbas turned out to be for professional military personnel, Buk missile systems, artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles and money for the maintenance of all this modest pseudo-independent life... However, it has to be said, 8.5 % suspected that something is wrong with the inexhaustibility of the military potentials of the "LPR and DPR". 3.1 % "strongly agree" with the fact that the war in Donbas was started by Russia and the local pro-Russian groups. 6.4% "rather agree" with this. At the same time, 86% agree that pro-Russian groups and Moscow were at the origins of the conflict - "rather disagree" (45.1%) and "completely disagree"(44.9%). [3]



A direct answer to the question: "What about Donbas?" – generously accept or pragmatically cut off.  How to accept when the vast majority of residents of the occupied territories consider that Crimea is Russian, Russia is not the aggressor, and there is an internal conflict in Ukraine? How to accept when, again, the vast majority on the other side see themselves as part of Russia? A state with which Ukraine has been de facto at war for the sixth year? Where to take the strength to realize the refusal of those who live in the "LPR and DPR", to share responsibility for what is happening? But how to cut off? When almost half of these people never thought about changing the Ukrainian passport to the Russian? When every fourth person from those who is in occupation, openly admits that warmly treats Ukraine? And twice as many people freeze in confused silence when they hear the question: what state determines the quality of your life in the next five years? How to cut off, when for five years Ukraine itself has failed absolutely all programs of assistance to migrants, in fact, denying them real support? When we have troubles with the reflection and awareness of the events?

The main problem is that only a strong, stable, economically developed state can answer honestly and directly all these global questions, and then make a decision, providing it with the necessary resources — economic, social, legal, psychological. A state with a public consensus on key decisions.  But is it something similar to our present-day Ukraine? A state that shred itself inside? Corrupt, weak and incompetently managed? It simply physically will not pull another very complicated multi-million human history, where it is necessary to communicate thinly, to build precisely and make tough decisions. As a result, all will fall — both we and them. Russia counts on it. [4]  

The foreign policy situation is also not very profitable for our state. European leaders are in a hurry as soon as possible to resolve the conflict in the Donbas and, in fact, do not perceive Russia as the main problem along the way. On the contrary, the history with «Nord Stream 2» and the situation in PACE clearly showed the trend for a "thaw" in relations with Russia. The same uncertain situation with the most powerful until recently partner of Ukraine - the United States. Exactly in a year the next presidential elections should be held in this state. Instead, our state that has become the "black swan", which can significantly affect the balance of political forces within the United States. If the conflict is not resolved diplomatically, we will have to prepare for a long process of "phantom pains". In this case, it is necessary to completely change both the strategy of domestic policy and foreign policy. Provide for all possible options, strengthen the defense and take care of the economic power. The option of a "frozen" conflict has only one significant advantage - certainty about further actions on the Donbas and the possibility of "flashing" the state to better internal social relations.[5]

As we can see, now it is useless to expect a quick solution of the issue with the occupied territories from the Normandy format because of the above contradictions. In turn, going to the meeting, we must take into account that Russia wants to negotiate only on favorable terms for it and no diplomatic agreements will help to solve painful issues for us, because Russia constantly violates them.


[1] Секретар РНБО Данилов сподівається, що на саміті лідерів нормандської четвірки будуть вирішені чотири ключові питання.



[4] Ibid.