The possibility of peace in Donbas and of an end to the occupation of Crimea

On October 10th to 12th, 2019 the fourth The fourth “Truth, Justice and Peacebuilding Commission” meeting was held in Paris. The Declaration of Intellectuals, adopted in Paris. Peace in the Donbas and the de-occupation of Crimea are possible and necessary. The members of the commission “TJP”, organized by the Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv), the Mohyla Academy (Kyiv), the international association “Memorial” (Moscow) and the College of the Bernardines (Paris) believe that, for the establishment of a lasting peace, it is necessary to identify and eliminate the basic reasons for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and also between Russia and the West.

The Commission “Truth, Justice and Peacebuilding between Ukraine and Russia through the Mediation of the European Union” which held its 4thsession at Paris from October 10thto 12th, is convinced that a lasting and equitable peace in Donbas and an end to the occupation of Crimea are possible and necessary for putting an end to the bloody conflict between Russia and Ukraine which has already lasted six years in the heart of the European continent.

The members of the commission “TJP”, organized by the Ukrainian Catholic University (Lviv), the Mohyla Academy (Kyiv), the international association “Memorial” (Moscow) and the College of the Bernardines (Paris) believe that, for the establishment of a lasting peace, it is necessary to identify and eliminate the basic reasons for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and also between Russia and the West.

To begin with, it has to be recognized that there is a hybrid war, on land and on sea, in Crimea and in Donbas, which Russia has initiated against Ukraine. Since February 2014 till the present, this war has cost the lives of more than 13,000 persons, left tens of thousands wounded and maimed and obliged nearly 2 million persons to leave their homes. The Russian aggression has not only destabilized Eastern Europe but also the Middle East and Africa. As was seen in the catastrophe of the Malaysian airplane MH 17, shot down over Donbas in July 2014 by the Russian military, this war has changed the destiny of many persons throughout the world.

It must be clearly recognized that Russia is participating in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and is waging a hybrid war against Ukraine and, hence, cannot pretend to be a mediator and artisan of peace. The concessions of the West, the absence of any reactions to direct acts of aggression, the silence maintained on the statistics, do not favor a normalization of the situation but, on the contrary, aggravate it.

The members of the commission believe that, in order to find an effective solution to this conflict, it is necessary to understand the real reasons for the Russian aggression against Ukraine, i.e. the determination to limit its sovereignty, to halt its progress on the road to European integration and the desire of the Kremlin leaders to impede the propagation of democracy.

As can be seen from many years of experience, the tactic of the present regime in Russia is to attain its objectives by force, by intervening in the post-Soviet vacuum – in Transnistria, in Abkhazia, in Southern Ossetia and now in Crimea and Donbas – and then engaging in peace talks thus hoping to legitimize their territorial expropriations and establishing a new status quo. At the same time, Moscow, ignoring international law and human rights in the occupied territories, is leading an aggressive propaganda campaign against European society, trying to persuade it to ignore the victims of aggression in the name of “peacekeeping”.

We believe that the actual efforts to organize a meeting under the “Normandy format” and impose on Ukraine the “Steinmeier formula” which considers the political element of the resolution of the conflict independently from its principle element – security – are motivated by the desire to “normalize” the relations with Russia as soon as possible in order to have the sanctions lifted and commerce restored. In other words, it is a question of getting “rapid” results, rather than finding long term and durable solutions.

We are convinced that a factice appeasement will never give positive results. It is impossible to reestablish international order by cooperating with those who violate it. Moreover, the violation of regulations should not become the foundation of the evolution of international law. What should be changed is our attitude towards those who violate these laws. The ancient international institutions and procedures have played an important role but today these roads are blocked because of their incapacity to react to the destructive actions of Russia. The tactics used with inertia by Europe in the past and which have already proved ineffective, constitute a threat. The time has come to propose new political initiatives which can reinforce an international partnership founded on European democratic values.

The European States should bring proceedings against particulars and enterprises that violate the sanctions imposed on Russia so that national and European Parliaments might adopt the equivalent of the “Magnitsky List” which holds physical and moral persons implicated in illegal activities responsible for their acts.

Since it is a question of Ukraine, the wishes of its oligarchic elites, who seek to restore the influence they lost after the Revolution for Dignity in 2014 by finding a compromise on the subject of the “return of Donbas” under the conditions dictated by Moscow and by putting aside those of Ukraine, is worrisome.

In this respect, we think that it is necessary to make a distinction between the official positions of political parties and the authentic long term interests of the Russian and Ukrainian societies and – on a larger scale – the interests of Europe.

The European countries should recognize that by helping to restore peace in Ukraine, Europe is neither an observer nor a neutral mediator but is defending fundamental European values – the lawful State, human rights and justice as well as the security of Europe in so far as Russia is systematically acting in such a way as to weaken European solidarity and security.

The international community should elaborate a long term strategy towards Russia, which would not be replaceable by the episodic improvisations of world leaders, even if they are inspired by good intentions. To cede positions through fear of Russian threats and the bluffing of President Poutine could prove to be more dangerous than to draw “red lines” that the Kremlin cannot pass over with impunity.

Ukraine should become a part of the system of European security and funding should be allotted to the formation of the Ukrainian army through the intermediary of the mission of the European Union in Ukraine. It is necessary to work to arrive at a consensus on the adhesion of Ukraine to NATO even if Russia continues to occupy Donbas and Crimea. Not only would that not provoke a conflict of the Atlantic Alliance with Russia, but it would enable avoiding the error committed on the threshold of the Second World War when the policy of appeasement of the aggressor brought about a world catastrophe.

It should be remembered that, when there were negotiations on the basis of the Normandy format, the advance of the Russian troops in Ukraine was stopped by the determination of the Ukrainians to defend their country, thus making the military losses unacceptable for the Kremlin regime. A “hot” conflict continues on Ukrainian soil and the agreements of Minsk, which call for negotiations, have only been able to reduce the intensity of the conflict. It is also necessary to remember that, as long as Moscow denies its evident participation in the war against Ukraine, the agreements of Minsk are only the conditions for a cease-fire and not conditions for peace.

To arrive at a just and lasting peace, we recommend the following measures:

  • Implicate in the negotiations according to the Normandy format, the Chief Representative of the European External Action Service of the European Union who has defended Ukraine’s territorial integrity, put in place a regime of sanctions against Russia and then supported the reforms in Ukraine by channeling important financial means;
  • Carry out a political strategy which includes the reintegration of the presently occupied territories of Donbas after having formulated a clear plan to assure the security of this territory;
  • Resume the examination of the question of sending international contingents for maintaining peace under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the United Nations in the territories of Donbas which are occupied at present. The participation of European States in such a mission would reinforce confidence in it and confirm the commitment and capacity of Europe to establish peace on this continent;
  • After a lasting cease-fire, the sending of a provisory administration under the mandateof the OSCE or the UN, entrusted with monitoring the demilitarization and preparing the necessary conditions for democratic elections, for the unimpeded work of the media, political parties and the return of refugees and displaced persons;
  • International organizations should send as many electoral observers as possible; these should not be members of the parties in conflict nor sent by them;
  • The role of the international institutions, which define the architecture of security in Europe at this time should be reformed and reinforced so that they might be able to really carry out their functions;
  • It is important that the European countries and international institutions continue and reinforce their support of programs of research, education and awareness among the citizens and politicians of the European Union, making use of modern methods of communication to win over the minds and hearts of the new generations;
  • Set up a network of centers of expertise with a recognized authority in Ukraine, Russia and other countries concerning questions of the development of independent medias, democracy and the study and analysis of political history, of the strengthening of Euro-Atlantic security and the popularization of universal values and the protection of security of human rights in a digitized and globalized world;
  • The European Union should develop a long term strategy for the transformation of Russia into a real democratization;
  • Ukraine should undertake more efficacious efforts for the support of the population in occupied territories, facilitate access to information and social services and reduce the number of documents necessary for obtaining access to the social security system;
  • Assure international financial support for the efforts of Ukraine to reestablish the economy and infrastructures of Donbas which have been destroyed and for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of the victims of the occupation;
  • Through the mediation of the ambassador of the European Union in Ukraine, it would be recommendable to augment the financing of the projects for the construction of peace in Ukraine.

We must remember that the reestablishment of peace in Donbas is only a first step towards a long term solution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and between Russia and the West.

We are worried by the fact that the Crimean problem has been put into parenthesis in today’s political negotiations. Not only does this give the Kremlin hope that the world will eventually accept the idea of the annexation of this part of Ukraine. That also puts the native peoples of this peninsula, the Crimean Tatars, in a dead-end situation; they are subject to systematic pressures and persecutions within their Fatherland. The world should take into consideration all the value of this people’s long-standing attachment to non-violent resistance.

It is necessary to bring a stop to Russia’s negative influence on international organizations, whose work is being obstructed, notably in the Security Counsel of the United Nations, where Russia has veto rights. This must be offset by a possible avoidance of this veto through the vote of the United Nations General Assembly.

The lifting of the sanctions against Russia and its integration into the world-wide system can only be realized after the solution of the problem of Crimea within the framework of the reestablishment of the sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. For the solution to this question, it will be necessary to involve, in the process of discussions, representatives of the civil society and experts capable of working both on the plan of historical memory and in view of a realistic future projection.

It is necessary to carry on and reinforce support to civil society in Russia, remembering that this is a long term undertaking, for it is only the construction of a truly democratic State in Russia that will give it, in the interest of its citizens, the possibility of a stable economic development, will free it from its imperialist vision and will assure the security of the countries neighboring Russia and the other European countries. It is necessary to support the efforts of the diverse organizations of civil society who militate in favor of the respect of human rights in Russia and beyond its borders.

The experience of our four sessions have shown us that working together creates confidence. We have not been afraid to use a language of truth concerning the most serious questions. The possible expansion of the audience which is now interested in the factual truth is linked to the international attention to the liberation of Russia’s political hostages. The victory over fear and the proven courage of such people as Oleg Sentsov, Roman Sushchenko, Igor Kozlovsky, Irina Dovgan, Achtem Chijgoz, Ilmi Umerov and other prisoners of conscience can give an important stimulus to political philosophy and to the influence of ethics in the making of strategic decisions. The public meetings between politicians and intellectuals with prisoners of conscience who have been liberated in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and other European capitals are meant to draw the attention of civil societies and heads of State to more coordinated and more harmonious forms of resistance in the face of cynical violations of the norms of international law.

The time has come for the European community to assume new responsibilities for the future of Eastern Europe, for peace on its borders where the destiny of the whole European world is now being decided.

Public opinion in the countries that are part of the European Union is being called upon to facilitate the transition from generic political discourse on the security system of the European Union to the practical realization of this security, with the assistance of combined military forces, for the control of the frontier between Russia and Ukraine. That would constitute a real path towards peace. Such combined actions are capable of curbing the escalation of the conflict and preventing a major war in Eastern Europe. The return to a stable respect of the norms of international law by all the countries without exception should unify the efforts of the leaders of civil society and of the democratic States of Europe. New forms of solidarity among European citizens might unite the efforts of all those who are not indifferent to the rights of liberty, of dignity and security and who resist the cynical violation of these rights.

The Western countries and, above all, those of Europe, should keep the promise they made when they signed the Memorandum of Budapest in 1994 and guaranteed the security of Ukraine in exchange for renouncing nuclear armaments.

Antoine Arjakovsky – Historian, Research Director at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris.

Thornike Gordadze – Former Minister of the Government of Georgia, Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris.

Vladimir Kazarin – Historian, Rector of the National University of Tauride (Crimea).

Father Georges Kovalenko – Philosopher, Rector of the Orthodox University of Saint Sophia of Kiyv.

Myroslav Marynovych – Former Dissident, Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv.

Alexander Melnik – Political scientist, former Russian Diplomat, Professor of Geopolitics at ICN Business School.

Alexander Morozov – Political scientist, Co-Director of the Boris Nemtsov Center at the University of Prague.

Nikita Petrov – Historian, Assistant-Director of the Memorial International Association, Moscow.

Constantin Sigov – Philosopher, Director of the Research center of european studies and humanities at the Mohyla Academy, Kiyv.

Nicolas Tenzer – Essayist and Professor at Sciences-Po Paris, Paris