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September 29, 2022

Ukraine: Kremlin’s narrative (II)

Fourthly, on the annexation of Crimea, President V. Putin is firm in pointing out that what happened in March 2015 on the Ukrainian peninsula complied with international law. “All our actions – the Kremlin leader says -, including those with the use of force/ an admission to using force in the actions, therefore contrary to the law / were aimed not at tearing away this territory from Ukraine but at giving the people living there an opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live their lives”. V. Putin makes frequent reference to the dossier of the independent Serbian region of Kosovo, in connection with Ukraine: “If Kosovo Albanians were allowed this, why is it prohibited to Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars living in Crimea? And by the way, the decision on Kosovo’s independence was made exclusively by the Kosovo Parliament, whereas Crimea held a region-wide referendum.”

In what regards the settlement of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the Russian president notes that anyone “wants these territories/ Donetzk and Lugansk /  to remain part of Ukraine, they should prove to those people that their lives would be better, more comfortable and safer within a unified state /…/issues of this kind can only be resolved by peaceful means.” The Russian president mentioned that a ‘fundamental issue’ was that those territories should remain a pat of the Ukraine – therefore stopping the dismantling of the country – and the leaders of the self-proclaimed republic have already said they agreed to that, but “ under certain conditions – meaning the implementation of the Minsk Agreements “.    To V. Putin, the document signed in Minsk, on 12 February,  “is the best agreement and perhaps the only unequivocal solution to this problem. We would never have agreed upon it if we had not considered it to be right, just and feasible.“ He notes that Russia is determined to do whatever effort for influencing “the authorities of the unrecognised self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics.”  He equally deems that “Our European and US partners should exert influence on the current Kiev administration. We do not have the power, as Europe and the United States do, to convince Kiev to carry out everything that was agreed on in Minsk. “ Declaring that “Russia is interested in and will strive to ensure the full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and I don’t believe there is any other way to settle this conflict today.”, V. Putin also noted how Moscow believes the Minsk agreement should be implemented, detailing on its own interpretation of the concept of ‘decentralisation’: “Specifically, there needs to be a constitutional reform to ensure the autonomous rights of the unrecognized republics. The Kiev authorities do not want to call it autonomy, they prefer different terms, such as decentralization. Our European partners, those very partners who wrote the corresponding clause in the Minsk Agreements, explained what should be understood as decentralization. It gives them the right to speak their language, to have their own cultural identity and engage in cross border trade – nothing special, nothing beyond the civilized understanding of ethnic minorities’ rights in any European country. A law should be adopted on municipal elections in these territories and a law on amnesty. All this should be done, as the Minsk Agreements read, in coordination with Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, with these territories. “ The leader at Kremlin however belies that the main obstacle in the implementation of the agreement is the lack of political will on the part of Kiev, who, ever since the negotiation of the agreement, on 11-12 February, has opposed the term of  ‘autonomy’ for the separatist territories. In V. Putin’s understanding, the obstacle can be overcome, but that is only for the partners of Kiev to achieve:  “Only our European and American partners can influence this situation. There is no need to threaten us with sanctions. We have nothing to do with this, this is not our position. We seek to ensure the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”

Eventually, one needs to note that, in the interview where he pin-pointed the main ideas of the ‘Russian narrative’ of the crisis in Ukraine, President Putin says the implementation of the Minsk agreements must be governed by a spirit of cooperation and on a long term: “The point is that relationships should be built on a long term basis not in the atmosphere of confrontation, but in the spirit of cooperation.”

Obviously, ‘the Russian narrative’ described in such detail by V. Putin around the G-7 summit n Munich was also meant to counteract – both propagandistically, for the Russian people, and in international relations, representing Kremlin’s response – eventual decisions on the Ukraine crisis and sanctions against Russia at a second level. The international press already at the end of last week was publishing news on the final statement of the G-7 summit, specifying that restrictive measures against Russia will be maintained until the full implementation of the Minsk agreement. The G-7 statement in Munich, published on 9 June, after going through the core principles of the functioning of the current global system, reiterates “our condemnation of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation and reaffirm our policy of its non-recognition.” It is therefore an energetic warning to Russia that the annexation of Crimea broke the principles the current global order is based upon, and the policy of non-recognition of the act will continue. The G-7 leaders reassert their support for identifying a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, ”particularly in the framework of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group /representatives of Ukraine, Russia and OSCE”. The communiqué calls upon all stakeholders to fully implement all the provisions of the Minsk agreement, respect the ceasefire and withdraw heavy weapons. The duration of sanctions “should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty. They can be rolled back when Russia meets these commitments.” More than that, G-7 warns they are ready  “to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require. We expect Russia to stop trans-border support of separatist forces and to use its considerable influence over the separatists to meet their Minsk commitments in full.”

Vladimir Putin’s interview on the eve of the G-7 summit, where Russia was not invited, did not yield the expected result – convince the leaders gathered in Munich that Kremlin’s ‘narrative’ corresponds to reality, especially with regard to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and length of application of Western sanctions. On 8 June 2015, US President Barack Obama was saying: “Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin. He’s got to make a decision: Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire ?  Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries”.

Therefore, as one can see from Obama’s statement a few days ago, there is a different narrative, completely opposed to Kremlin’s, of the events in Ukraine – the one of the West, based on international law and non-recognition of any imperial or neo-imperil desires.


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