On September 5, 2014, the trilateral contact group on Ukraine (OSCE, Russia and Ukraine) signed a Protocol to “implement president Poroshenko’s peace plan and president Putin’s initiative”; then on September 19 the same contact group signed a Memorandum, supposedly to precise its practical application, but actually to correct it and make it both viable and useful. After the failure of the general military offensive launched by the Ukranian government in January, president Hollandd, president Putin and chancellor Merkel called the contact group to prepare a new document, the Complex “of measures about the implementation of the Minsk agreements”, issued on February 12, 2015. As the two previous ones, this document was then presented to two top leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk de facto republics (in the meanwhile elected chiefs of government), who acknowledged having read it by signing after the trilateral contact group, in their sole personal names since they were not asked to state any public mandate or commit any community.
The 13 clauses of the Complex are commented hereafter.
1. Immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
This clause just repeats the first clause of the Protocol and the first clause of the Memorandum, and ignores the third clause of the Memorandum, burrying the distinction between offensive fire, especially against civilian population, and defensive counter-battery fire, aimed at putting an end to any shelling of the civilian population. For months the OSCE has been able to identify and report which side was firing at the population (even after the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum) and which side was restraining to defensive counter-battery, but the trilateral contact group doesn’t want any more to single out offensive operations and to put a specific blame on the offender, should the same anti-cities pattern occur again.
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2. Withdrawal of heavy weapons to create a safety zone.
This is the most important back-pedalling since the September texts, destroying the most important clause of the Memorandum, the only one that could have really improved the situation of the civilian population by complicating the anti-cities governmental strategy. The fourth clause of the Memorandum was detailing nine different distances of removal (pulling out of maximal range), from 8 km (mortars and 100 mm guns) to 120 km (SS-21 and MLR Tornado-S). The Complex calls for the reciprocal withdrawal of heavy weapons to an equal distance “in order to create between them a security zone of a width of”, with only three widths of 50, 70 and 140 km. For example, the security zone considered for the Tochka (SS-21 ballistic missile) is 140 km, meaning a reciprocal withdrawal of 70 km from the contact line, therefore the contact line (and the whole million-populated city of Donetsk) will still stay within the 120 km range of this system, as well as within the range of Uragan and Tornado MLRS.
3. Monitoring of the ceasefire and of the withdrawal of weapons by OSCE.
This clause confirms the general intention of the second clause of the Protocol (monitoring by OSCE) but fails to repeat the practical modality of the eighth clause of the Memorandum (monitoring from within the ceasefire area).
4. Immediate dialogue to prepare local elections under Ukrainian law on temporary regional status.
This clause, reminding the ninth clause of the Protocol (not repeated in the Memorandum which didn’t contain any political measure), disregards the fact that the law on temporary regional status, introduced but president Proshenko, was quickly dismissed and revoked by the Ukranian parliament.
5. Law of amnesty of persons related to the events in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk.
This sixth clause of the Protocol, taken from the Poroshenko’s ultimatum of June 20, could then be seen as a guarantee for the south-eastern resistance. But after the massive commission of war crimes and even crimes against humanity by governmental forces and especially governmental paramilitary militias, recorded by the OSCE after the September 20 truce, this clause looks like a guarantee of impunity. Nowadays, not only does the international community insist on punishing war criminals as a first step towards reconciliation, but it even created a permanent international tribunal to be competent and step in when a government refuses to judge its criminals.
6. Release of hostages and illegally withheld persons on the basis of the principle “all for all”.
This is the fifth clause of the Protocol, also taken from Poroshenko’s June ultimatum, and still ignoring Putin’s September proposal for a prisoners exchange, more in line with the existence of an armed conflict. Seen from Kiev, anybody captured by the so-called “terrorists” is a hostage, and anybody captured by the government is legally withheld. Seen from Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as from international conventions (Geneva notably), anybody captured while fighting in uniform with distinctive signs of a constituted army is a war prisoner and has to be protected during the war and released after it, and anybody captured while looting, raping or killing in unidentifiable clothing is a criminal that can be sentenced in a court, or through the adhoc expeditive process reserved for armed crimes in a combat operation zone. In any case, this clause fails to condemn the governmental practice of torturing and killing war prisoners, and then capturing innocent civilians to exchange against captured governmental soldiers.
7. International mechanism to guarantee access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid.
This clause is the only one that marks a progress since the Protocol, where the humanitarian relief was simply entrusted in the government that had provoked the humanitarian disaster to force the displacement of the population… one quarter of which already left.
8. Preparation of the reestablishment of financial links especially for social payments.
This clause if a simple declaration of intention, obviously dictated by western political leaders pretending that some administrative or technical difficulties could have caused more damage than the systematic destruction of vital infrastructure or the massive use of prohibited weapons.
9. Reestablishment of Ukranian government control over the international frontier, after the elections.
This clause if just a concession to the Ukranian government, which dismisses OSCE border-control reports and pretends that Russia invades Ukraine over the frontier.
10. Withdrawal of foreign units, fighters and weapons and disarmament of illegal groups.
The withdrawal of foreign units, fighters and weapons was mentionned in the eight clause of the Memorandum, but the critera of illegal groups was taken from the tenth clause of the Protocol, probably inferring that any non-governmental group is illegal.
11. New decentralized Ukrainian constitution and definitive law on regional status by end of 2015.
This clause aims at reducing the genocide and deportation campaign to a political dispute.
12. Joint preparation of local elections to be supervised by OSCE.
This clause dismisses the presidential and parliamentary elections held in Donetsk and Lugansk on November 2, that the OSCE and its member states had been invited to monitor.
13. Intensify and demultiply the activity of the trilateral contact group.
Incidentally, the Complex doesn’t recall the sixth clause of the Memorandum prohibiting land mines, which is striking after the destruction of an autobus, on January 13 close to Volnovakha, by a directed-effect antipersonnel mine MOH laid by the government troops. The document doesn’t even condemn or mention the use of forbidden weapons such as white phosphorus, fragmentation and submunitions shells, multiple launch-rocket systems…
As already shown (www.stratediplo.blogspot.com/
The Memorandum corrected the inapplicable Protocol, and replaced it with a pragmatic ceasefire agreement recognising the real frontline which, if implemented by the Ukranian government, could have brought a lasting truce. The Memorandum was a serious ceasefire agreement prepared after military study, the Complex is a show-off political dictate disregarding tactical and technical facts. The Complex dismantles the Memorandum, incorporates Donetsk and Lugansk into future Ukrainian institutions (therefore considering a total capitulation of the de facto republics), and cancels the most important clause of the Memorandum by reducing the heavy weapons withdrawal to a move that would keep the main cities within their range.
The Ukrainian government already announced that it would not respect this document, but it seems to have been written in such a way to make it unacceptable by Novorussia’s population.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.