In testimony before Congress concerning Ukraine, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said the implementation of the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015 remains a goal worth fighting for. The alternatives, she said in a statement, are bleak: “at best, a frozen conflict in which Donbas becomes an unrecognized gray zone for the foreseeable future, at worst, a return to the war that has already claimed too many Ukrainian lives – and Russian lives, as well.”
The Minsk agreements, she said, are “the best hope for peace, weapons withdrawal, political normalization, decentralization in Eastern Ukraine, and the return of Ukrainian state sovereignty over that part of its border.” Assistant Secretary Nuland noted that in the eight months since the implementation agreement was signed in February, the region experienced “almost constant violence all along the contact line, continued weapons shipments from Russia masquerading as humanitarian aid, separatist filibustering and threats at the political negotiating table, and repeated Russian efforts to relitigate basic elements of Minsk.”
In September, however, there was change: “the guns,” she said, “largely fell silent.” In addition, in Paris on October 2, in a meeting with Presidents Poroshenko of Ukraine and Hollande of France and German Chancellor Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to stop the separatists in Eastern Ukraine from holding another round of fake elections. They also committed to withdraw heavy weapons less than 100 mm in caliber; to allow full access all the way to the border to the monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE; stop jamming the OSCE’s UAVs, and to negotiate modalities for real elections in Donbas under Ukrainian law, and safer conditions for observation by the OSCE.
“If these commitments are kept,” said Assistant Secretary Nuland, “Ukraine will once again have unfettered access to its own people and its territory in the East. That’s what Minsk promises.”
Assistant Secretary Nuland stressed that the United States will keep pushing to complete other unfinished aspects of the Minsk agreements, including the return of all hostages, including Nadia Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, and those held in Russia, as well as the removal of all foreign forces, weapons, and landmines.
“We will keep supporting Ukraine as it does its part to implement Minsk,” said Assistant Secretary Nuland. “We will keep pushing Russia and its proxies to demonstrate equal good faith…[and] we will judge Russia and the separatists by their actions, not their words.”