Moscow Laid Its Cards on the Table on the Issue of Ukraine & Donbass

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


In anticipation of negotiations with the US concerning the problem of Donbass, Sergey Lavrov designated the position of Russia on Ukraine as a whole. In fact, Moscow suggests to the West “to close the Ukrainian project” and to return it there, where its historical place is – in the zone of Russian influence. And it is difficult not to notice the malice in the remark that, in the contrary, the Kremlin is ready to wait and return to this conversation in a few years.

On Sunday, in an interview to one of the federal TV channels, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a number of symbolic statements on a wide range of foreign policy questions. It is necessary to distinguish from the most remarkable those that concern the Ukrainian crisis.

As is known, the military situation on the contact line in Donbass continues to remain very difficult.

The official rhetoric of Moscow on this occasion differs by an increased level of rigidity, sometimes passing into very ambiguous irony. It is enough to remember in this regard the recent comment of the press secretary of the Russian president that the Kremlin isn’t engaged in “calculating ammunition” for the LDPR militias, and only hopes that “they will have enough ammunition to respond to the aggressive actions of Ukrainian Armed Forces”.

The key points of the sounded position of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs are the following:

1. Full responsibility for the current military aggravation was assigned to the Ukrainian party.

Thus, it is stressed that the substantial level of the escalation was provoked by voluntary battalions that, in fact, don’t subordinate themselves to Ukraine Armed Forces.

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2. The not only distanced, but emphasised, contemptuous attitude to the Kiev authorities that was expressed in the comment of Sergey Lavrov on his lack of intentions to appeal to conscience of his Ukrainian colleague Pavel Klimkin (and other representatives of the authorities of Ukraine).

3. A removal of a considerable share of responsibility for the events from the West.

In particular, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted the objectivity and impartiality of the OSCE mission, which isn’t able anymore to “cover” for the UAF and volunteer battalions. In fact, the Kremlin consistently drives a wedge between Kiev and forces that support it in the West, showing the latter the absolute hopelessness of this project, thus the most reasonable exit in the circumstances would be to leave the game.

4. A return to the idea of decentralization of Ukraine as to a method of a settlement of the situation.

It is curious that Sergey Lavrov, speaking about it, referred not to the Minsk Agreements, which demand wide autonomy for the Republics, but to the offers of April, 2014, which, amongst others, were supported also by western countries.

Thus, Lavrov noted that although contact with the new US administration already began, officials of the State Department with whom it will be possible to discuss the situation in Ukraine still weren’t appointed.

In fact, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his statements, outlined the position of Russia for future work with Washington on the Ukrainian topic (about the fact that his negotiations concerning Donbass with the new head of State Department Rex Tillerson are planned for the near future, which Lavrov said in the same interview). It should be noted that this position is very strict and is summarised in several main points:

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1. Ukraine is a zone of influence of Russia.

All others are offered to refuse the project, which in recent years showed its lack of perspective, and which only draws finances, but doesn’t bring about any profits. In this case Moscow is ready “to forget and forgive” all problems that were caused to her on this occasion.

2. Moscow will solve the Ukrainian problem at its discretion.

Decentralization will be an instrument of the decision. What this will bring as a result – disintegration of Ukraine or reassembly of the state on new principles – is the affair of Russia.

3. If the West (including the US) isn’t ready to accept the Russian offers, Moscow is ready to wait a few more years while the West continues its “stepping on rakes”.

It is exactly in this way that the absolutely transparent (and very malicious) hint of Lavrov with a mention of the discussion of spring 2014 must be understood. Three years of rigid opposition and various provocations, and the result is a return to the initial thing.

Moscow laid its cards out on the table. Now its Washington’s move.


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