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IMPLEMENTATION OF MINSK REMAINS CONTENTIOUS

By Adrian Karmazyn  

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, briefed the press in Kyiv on March 27thafter her meetings with President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Groysman, Speaker Parubiy and other Ukrainian officials.   In her remarks, Ms. Nuland reiterated Washington's support for Uskraine and encouraged Ukrainians to press ahead with essential reforms:

Victoria Nuland U.S. State Dept website

"It's important to remember that Ukraine has already accomplished a great deal.  You have a stable currency, you've cleaned up the banking sector, you've restored budget discipline, you're energy independent for the first time in a long time, you have a new police force.  A lot has already been done, even as hard as it's been. 2016 can and should be the year that Ukraine makes reform irreversible.  There is hard work ahead, that was obviously part of our message over the last couple of days.  Ukraine needs to stay the course with the IMF.  Ukraine needs a new Prosecutor General.  It needs real, deep judicial reform.  Obviously, corruption is still a very deep problem.  It's time to start locking up people who have ripped off the Ukrainian population for too long, and it's time to irradiate the cancer of corruption.

I again conveyed the strong U.S. commitment to stand with Ukraine as it stays on the path of a clean, democratic, European future.  We also, as we have in the past, urged unity among all democratic forces and all reformers -- those in the coalition and those outside the coalition -- to keep pushing change and working together."

During Assistant Secretary Nuland's visit to Kyiv, Ukrainian media outlets, based on the comments of some Ukrainian members of Parliament, had reported that Washington is insisting on having elections in the Russian-occupied territories of the Donbas in July, and saying it was a precondition for any financial help to Ukraine, as well as a precondition to keeping sanctions against Russia in place. Ms. Nuland called that characterization erroneous and described the U.S. position on implementation of the Minsk agreement and continued U.S. assistance for Ukraine as follows:

"Your report of our session with the Rada yesterday is completely inaccurate.  We have put no date on when elections need to happen.  We've made absolutely clear that Minsk requires that there be sufficient security, and OSCE access, and the ability of candidates to ballot, and the ability of citizens to hear from candidates before you can have an election.  That's what Minsk says -- it's logical -- as in any country.

So even as the Ukrainian government works on preparations for an election and works in the Normandy format to prepare for them, the first priority is security, end the killing on the line, and access for the OSCE throughout the Donbas, which is not possible now.  And U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine and technical assistance to Ukraine is tied to Ukraine staying on the reform course, tied to it staying inside the IMF program, pursuing judicial reform, anti-corruption reform, energy reform, not to Minsk."

You can read the entire transcript of Assistance Secretary Nuland's Kyiv briefing here: http://ukraine.usembassy.gov/statements/nuland-04272016.html

IS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE MINSK AGREEMENT POSSIBLE?

During their recent visit to Washington, lawmakers of the Self-Reliance (Samopomich) party, including Self-Reliance parliamentary faction leader Oleh Bereziuk and Deputy Speaker Oksana Syroid, spoke at the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council and the National Democratic Institute and were interviewed by the Voice of America.

MP Oleh Bereziuk (Samopomich website)

MP Oksana Syroid  (Samopomich website).

They argued that Minsk cannot be implemented, because granting special status to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics and holding elections there while those areas remain under Russian military control will permanently and gravely undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.

Instead they propose that the DNR/LNR be declared "temporarily occupied territories," that they be "walled off" from the rest of Ukraine, that no elections be held there until Russian forces withdraw and Ukraine regains full control of those lands. Self-Reliance party leaders also propose creating a new international security agreement for Ukraine in response to Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine and the ineffectiveness of the Budapest Memorandum.
 
Meanwhile, in a recent article in The American Interest, David Kramer of the McCain Institute proposes a somewhat similar approach. He writes that the best way to help Ukraine is to scrap the Minsk agreement, maintain sanctions on Russia and keep pressuring Ukrainian leaders to clean up corruption:  

David Kramer (LinkedIn)

"To say that the Minsk deal is the only game in town, the constant refrain of Western diplomats, is both lazy and defeatist, as well as unfair to Ukraine. Russia has proven to be an untrustworthy interlocutor (not just on Ukraine) and continues to deny, absurdly, that it even has forces on Ukrainian soil, making it pointless to conduct further negotiations with Moscow. Nor is it reasonable to continue to pressure Ukraine to fulfill conditions under Minsk when Russia refuses to uphold any. It is time to come up with a better game.  

Accordingly, the EU and United States, along with Canada, Japan, and other countries that have sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, should replace Minsk with a one-sentence pronouncement:

Sanctions against Russia will remain in place-and will be increased over time-unless and until Russia withdraws its forces and weapons from Ukraine (including Crimea), respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and returns to Ukraine those citizens it kidnapped from Ukrainian territory.

This should not be a negotiation with Vladimir Putin. This should be a declaration. Western leaders must be clear that Ukraine remains the victim of Russia's ongoing aggression, and sanctions against the Putin regime must stay in place until it leaves Ukraine in peace, however long that may take."

Oksana Syroid VOA interview video:  CLICK HERE  
Oleh Bereziuk VOA interview video:  CLICK HERE
David Kramer article in The American Interest:  CLICK HERE 

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