lundi 8 septembre 2014

Kuchma-Zurabov protocol: concession or treason?

The OSCE published yesterday the text of the protocol of agreement signed on Friday, September 5 in Minsk. One cannot guess what happened but if it is true that Poroshenko promised he would order his troops to cease fire in case Putin's seven-points project was signed, it's easy to understand that he finally abstained from ordering this ceasefire since the signed document doesn't correspond at all to the Putin project (which would never have considered, for example, the creation of a demilitarised zone in Russia).

On the contrary, it is almost word for word the 14-point "peace plan" proclaimed by Poroshenko himself on June 20, delivering to the resistance to the coup d'état a one-week ultimatum to drop its weapons and go into exile, which a lot of analysts interpreted as the announcement of ethnic cleansing. This is actually what the near future could confirm with the destruction of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, the expulsion of more than a million civilians and the besieging of three million people in two urban areas in which life-sustaining infrastructure (drinking water and electricity) would be systematically destroyed, humanitarian and media access denied, and a massacre undertaken not only by intensive anti-urban strategic bombing (including the use of prohibited weapons) but also by the bombing of chemical plants.

It's difficult to resist the temptation to comment each of these 12 points of an agreement obviously imposed on Novorussia.

1. Ensure the immediate bilateral cessation of the use of weapons.

This point (ceasefire) was not included in Proshenko's initial program nor does it correspond to the first point of Putin's project, which demanded specifically the cessation of offensive operations without mentioning defensive operations. On the very first day the pragmatic question arose of what Novorussia defense should do in the event that the Kiev forces resumed offensive operations. Clearly, Putin's project was realistic (a plan forbidding the answer to an attack is unapplicable in the field) and it also allowed to fingerpoint the violator (the one who would carry out an offensive operation) instead of equally blaming the one who launched an attack and the one who tried to oppose it.

2. Ensure monitoring and verification by the OSCE of the regime of non-use of weapons.

Of course this point was not in Poroshenko's program, since he didn't consider a ceasefire but a surrender-deportation under fire. But it doesn't correspond either to Putin's project third point which was requesting an international monitoring "in the security zone created by the ceasefire", meaning the buffer zone created by the withdrawal of Kiev forces beyond the range of their artillery. By the way, the OSCE published on Friday a vacancy posting for 250 monitors, and Novorussia was planning their deployment in five areas with fixed posts and mobile patrols; after all, it is not defined (i this point) were they are to be deployed.

3. Implement decentralization of power, enacting the Law on temporary local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and the Lugansk regions.

This is the eleventh point of Poroshenko's program, but applies to only a part of the two concerned provinces (probably the liberated part) and not to the totality of the provinces or ex-oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk. It is even less a decentralisation on the whole territory of former Ukraine, as Gubarev was dreaming when imagining that a choice between federalisation and secession would be proposed by referendum to all the provinces of Novorussia, or even of the former Ukraine.

4. Ensure OSCE permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and creation of a security area in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

This is the fourth point of Poroshenko's program, but extended towards and over the territory of Russia since Poroshenko was considering it only on the Ukrainian i.e. Novorussian side of the border. This creation of a demilitarised zone in Russia, true amputation of its sovereignty and its territorial integrity (with no counterpart in Poland from where troops cross into Galicia) is the point that should cause the most protest when the constituent peoples of the Russian Federation learn about it. Poroshenko's program, by the way, was limiting this buffer zone to a 10 km width (and exclusively on the Ukrainian side), while the document published by the OSCE mentions the border regions of Ukraine and Russia without specifying the depth of this security zone. Additionally, the OSCE forgets to demand that the Kiev regime eventually sign the authorisation for using observation drones received by the OSCE more than a month ago that will disprove accusations of a Russian invasion.

5. Immediately release all hostages and unlawfully detained persons.

This is the third point of Poroshenko's program. The fifth point of Putin's project was asking for the reciprocal and unconditional release of all prisoners. Besides the absence of the term "prisoners of war", which would have acknowledged the existence of a war and therefore the applicability of the Geneva conventions, we note the term "unlawfully detained" with no definition of lawfully. Since the whole document fails to grant any legal personality (or recognition) to Novorussian current institutions but does recognise "Ukranian authorities", we can expect that the Kiev regime will consider its arrests and captures as legal, and that the release (already in process) of combatants captured by Novorussia will not be followed by any reciprocity.

6. Enact a law against prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.

While commenting on the second point of his June 20th program, Poroshenko announced that the amnesty law was already introduced in the parliament. He can therefore correct his draft, obviously lost by said parliament, which was not limiting the amnesty exclusively to some parts of Donetsk and Lugansk. This point was not in Putin's project, which was perhaps not considering that the jurisdiction of the regime born from the February 22 coup d'état would be extended to Novorussia.

7. Conduct an inclusive national dialogue.

This point was neither in Poroshenko's program, not intended to be in any way interactive, nor in Putin's project. Maybe it's the Swiss OSCE officer who considers ex-Ukraine as a "nation".

8. Adopt measures aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in Donbass.

The ninth point of Poroshenko's program was intending to let the "legal authorities" reestablish the vital infrastructures that their army, in June, was just beginning to destroy. Subsequent events soon showed his conception of the matter, since he first ordered the firing of ballistic missiles SS-21 one month later. The sixth point of Putin's project was more concrete: as a consequence of the bombing of refugee convoys and the withholding of humanitarian help, he was specifically asking for the opening of corridors for refugees and humanitarian help.

9. Holding local elections in accordance with the Law on Special Status.

This is the thirteenth point of Poroshenko's program. Putin's project aimed at putting an end to the armed conflict and did not interfere with the internal politics of either warring party; therefore, it did not contain any political recommendation. The Kuchma-Zurabov agreement reinserts the governing system of Donbass into the ex-Ukraine one, or more exactly it dissolves Novorussia and its two constitutive republics and incorporates the oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk into the new, post-Maïdan, self-proclaimed "Ukranian" constitution.

10. Remove unlawful military formations, military hardware, militants and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine.

The fifth point of Poroshenko's program clearly foresaw the opening of a corridor for the departure of "Russian and Ukrainian mercenaries" towards Russia (without mentioning, of course, European mercenaries and United States or Polish regular troops). Orally, it was clarified on several occasions that anybody who had any link to people connected to events would be considered a terrorist. In the light of past speeches of the "authorities" recognised by this agreement, the term "militants" seems to be calling for the departure of the entire Novorussian population.

11. Adopt a program for the recovery and revival of Donbass economic activity.

This is the fourteenth point of Poroshenko's program, which was even a little more precise.

12. Guarantee personal security of the participants to the consultations.

This article, which would seem obvious and not even be mentioned in any other meeting of this type, was the first point of Poroshenko's program, as if he desired to present himself as being more civilised than his acts and decisions, which could have left the potential negotiators in fear.

Omitted from the protocol was the twelfth point of Poroshenko's program of June 20 (reactivated at the end of August) restoring the legality of the use of the Russian language at a regional level, and a few details like the freeing of occupied administrative buildings, lifting of roadblocks, the restoration of Kiev television and radio broadcasting, and decentralisation of the police.

Ignored from Putin's project of September 3 were the most important articles (three out of the seven points):

- withdrawal of Ukrainian armed forces to a distance prohibiting the use of artillery against populated areas,

- monitoring of the ceasefire in the security zone created by it,

- forbidding the use of aircraft against civilians and populated areas.

Some vague recommendations also replaced Putin's specific demands, such as access by reconstruction brigades for rebuilding life-supporting infrastructure before the winter, and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

In conclusion, Putin's project, aiming at ceasing military hostilities, called for the deployment of OSCE monitors in a security zone wider than the range of the Kiev artillery established between this artillery and the cities of Novorussia. The Kuchma-Zurabov agreement, on the other hand, dissolves Novorussia and its confederated republics (none of the three political entities is mentioned in the protocol); creates a buffer zone between Novorussia and Russia, including a demilitarised area in Russia itself; and reinforces the international monitoring of the border between Russia and ex-Ukraine, while neglecting the real line of confrontation. To try to explain why a victorious Novorussia (at least on its own terrain since it didn't counter-attack on Kiev's territory) would have signed an act of capitulation and annexation, one could argue that a good fighter, tactician or even politician is not necessarily a good negotiator, as well. Unless the signatories guessed that the Kiev regime would immediately violate the protocol which, according to international law, would free Novorussia from its own commitments.

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