POPOV: Steinmeier formula – a chance for peace in the Donbass

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Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation.

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What are the reactions to its signing in Kiev, Donetsk, Moscow?

On October 1, members of the contact group for Ukraine working in Minsk signed the document with the “Steinmeier formula”. This mechanism for resolving the armed and political conflict in the Donbass at the beginning of 2016 was proposed by the German Foreign Minister, now President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The formula determines the mechanism for securing a special status for Donbass, stipulates an amnesty for members of military and political groups in the Donbass, and, finally, holding elections in the territories of Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. According to the “Steinmeier formula”, on the day of the elections, a law on their special status will be enacted on a temporary basis. In fact, as you can see, this is an abridged version of the Minsk Agreements-2.

The signing of the document is a somewhat conditional definition of what happened in Minsk. Details later became known: the representative of Ukraine in the Minsk contact group, ex-president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma refused to put his signature on the document next to the names of representatives of the DPR and LPR. But still, Kuchma agreed to send his letter in support of the formula. As a result, instead of one document with five signatures, five letters were sent (Ukraine, DPR, LPR, Russia, OSCE) addressed to the OSCE representative in the contact group Martin Saydik.

Thus, the parties found a way out of the impasse with the signing of the “Steinmeier formula.”

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Like everything related to the settlement in the Donbass, this news provoked different, sometimes opposing assessments in Ukraine and in the people’s republics of Donbass, in the OSCE and in Russia. The signing by Ukraine of the Steinmeier formula for the Donbass paves the way for a meeting in the “Norman format,” said Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov, who makes regular comments on foreign policy events. He called it a major success for Russia. With cautious optimism, the news was received in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The signing by representatives of Kiev of the “Steinmeier formula” speaks of the recognition of the right of the inhabitants of Donbass to independently determine their fate. This is stated in a joint statement by the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. The text of the statement was published by the Donetsk news agency (https://dan-news.info/official/sovmestnoe-zayavlenie-glavy-dnr-denisa-pushilina-i-glavy-lnr-leonida-pasechnika.html).

But what about Ukraine? For the first time since the defeat of Petro Poroshenko in the presidential election, Ukraine demonstrates a lack of conceptual unity. President Poroshenko ideologically and ethnically, as a representative of Ukrainian Jewry, was alien to Ukrainian nationalism (Nazism). However, all the years of his reign appropriated their slogans. In the Donbass issue, Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Nazis are situational allies.

The new president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, is an outspoken opponent of the Nazi street. Therefore, at the moment, there are two positions: official, which advocates diplomatic dialogue with the Donbass and Russia, and opposition, nationalist (Nazi). The first demonstrates cautious optimism, considering the signing of the “Steinmeier formula” a success precisely of Ukrainian diplomacy. The second speaks of betrayal and defeat of Ukraine. The ex-chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Andrei Parubiy, called the signing of the “Steinmeier formula” “the dismantling of the Ukrainian state,” Petro Poroshenko “the Putin formula.” On the evening of October 1, a rally began against the “Steinmeier formula.” According to the formulation of the Ukrainian Nazis “Poroshenko, Medvedchuk and Zelensky under the guise of peace lead to surrender” (https://vesti.ua/kiev/352501-radikaly-vyshli-na-bankovuju-protiv-formuly-shtajnmajera). Vladimir Zelensky hastened to be recorded as “Kremlin agents”.

However, the independent Ukrainian press speaks of the relative paucity of the action of “radicals” (a euphemism used to refer to the Nazis) and their “underfunding”. Obviously, this action is long-playing and designed for a long time.

But signing a document is only half the battle. In order for the progress in peace negotiations to develop, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine must adopt a law on the special status of Donbass, which the President of Ukraine must endorse with his signature. It would seem that the parliament, 71 percent controlled by the party of Zelensky’s “Servant of the People”, is able to pass any law supported by the president. After all, Vladimir Zelensky and his party won a sensational election result, including thanks to promises to end the boring war in the Donbass.

I do not share the optimism of most of my colleagues – experts and journalists who write about Ukraine and the Donbass. And I foresee further delays in the practical implementation of the Steinmeier formula. It seems that Zelensky is not interested in the final result (the implementation of the entirety of the formulas

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