Tuesday, May 24

Russia demands a referendum in Donbas as a condition for a peace agreement with Ukraine

The chief negotiator of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinski, has given details on the state of the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on two of the central issues: the Donbas territories and the status of neutrality that they claim for the Ukrainians.

The Donbas or how to live eight years in the trenches

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Medinski has argued that Donbas, which includes the self-proclaimed Russian-recognized independent republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, should decide for itself how these territories are managed.

“The Donbas issue is one of the key issues in the negotiations. It is true that we see it differently. The Ukrainian side believes that the question of governing the territory should be decided in kyiv. And we believe that the issue of governance should be decided by the people of Donbas”, he told reporters. collected by the state agency RIA Novosti.

The so-called Donbas includes the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Since 2014, the breakaway republics recognized by Moscow have been at the heart of contention between Russia and Ukraine. The Donbas, an area historically known for its coal mines, is a region bordering Russia and has been populated mostly by Russian-speakers since the creation of the Soviet Union.

This territory has been experiencing an armed conflict since April 2014 between pro-Russian militias and the Ukrainian Army, which, according to the UN, had caused more than 14,000 deaths before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on both sides, both military and civilian.

In May 2014, in the midst of a political crisis in the south-east of the country, Donetsk and Luhansk held a referendum on their political status to claim independence from Ukraine, yielding a majority result in favor. kyiv rejected the legitimacy of the consultation, as did the EU and the US. Russia recognized the results as valid.

Medenski added that the Russian position on Donbas is “clear” and that they will not back down. “Our position is very clear, it has been formulated repeatedly by our president, supported by the entire country. And there is no way we are going to back down,” he added.

This is the aspect that the Donbas area presented before the invasion:

Pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine

Separatist controlled

Pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian controlled areas

Controlled by Russian-backed separatists

Ukraine rejects this possibility

According to Russia, Ukraine does not see a “special status” possible for these territories. This has been stated by Dimitri Kozak, deputy chief of staff of Putin’s Executive Office.

“Ukraine keeps a deep secret about how it sees the status of Donbas. Obviously, it follows from those negotiations that he sees it as ordinary municipal districts within Ukraine, without any special status,” he said during a meeting of the Russian Security Council, according to RIA.

Ukraine’s position remains that the country’s borders should not be altered.

The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, recalled this Thursday that his priorities in the negotiations “are absolutely clear: end of the war, security guarantees, sovereignty, restoration of territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country and real protection for our country” .

Presidential adviser Oleksi Arestovich specified, speaking to Reuters, that this would mean that the borders that were marked in 1991, the year in which the USSR fell and Ukraine became independent, are not altered.

Both the Donbas and Crimea regions were part of Ukraine at the time and are still recognized by the United Nations as part of its territory.

Mikhail Podoliak recognized that this is one of the key issues in the “tough” conversations that continue to be held online.

“With regard to the occupied territories, Ukraine’s position remains unchanged: the country’s borders cannot be changed. However, I think we should be restrained in our judgements. By right, Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk are still part of Ukraine, but we do not de facto control them, the Russian administration works there”, he declared on a Polish network.

He added that efforts are being made to find a formula on “how these territories should be managed”. However, he did not elaborate on what it would be and what it would entail. “I can’t go into details because that could slow down the negotiations,” he said.

After knowing Russia’s position in this regard, Podoliak has written a message on Twitter insisting that the statements of Russian officials only reflect their position, and that they are filtered to cause “tension in the media”. Zelensky’s adviser has insisted that his positions remain unchanged: “ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and strong security guarantees with concrete formulas.”

As for the rest of the issues, Medenski has said that Moscow and kyiv have moved “as close as possible” to their position on Ukraine’s neutral status with respect to NATO, while they are “halfway” in talks on demilitarization. of that country.

“The issue of a neutral status and Ukraine’s non-adherence to NATO is one of the key points of the negotiations, and it is on which the parties have brought their positions as close as possible,” he told Russian media, according to collects the official agency TASS.

Medinski added, however, that there are “nuances” related to the security guarantees required by Ukraine, which has expressed its desire to form a new alliance with a strong commitment from various powers, including Russia, to intervene in the event of a new attack.

On the formula for demilitarization, the Russian president has assured that the negotiations are in a “fifty, fifty.” “I am not authorized to reveal any details of the negotiations and I will not, neither specific figures, nor the arguments of the negotiating parties, but in this matter they are somewhere in the middle of the road,” he has pointed out.

Day 22 of the invasion of Ukraine: