On October 1st, Ukraine signed the Steinmeier formula at the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that the agreement had been signed, in response to a letter by OSCE Special Representative in the Trilateral Contac Group Martin Sajdik.
“We responded to the letter of Mr Sajdik that we are agreeing the text of Steinmeier formula. Steinmeier formula should be implemented in the new law on the special status, which is not elaborated yet,” Zelensky said.
“Steinmeier formula is one-two offers. The temporarily law about the special order of the self-government in particular areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known as the bill on the special status of Donbas, begins to act on the permanent basis under the condition that the local elections will take place there in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine and legislation of Ukraine and also after the publication of OSCE report that the elections took place in accordance with the OSCE standards and international standards of the democratic elections. It means that any elections may take place at gunpoint and they will not take place,” the president said.
He furthermore said that a disengagement of forces was also agreed:
“The agreement was reached at the beginning of the disengagement of the forces; besides, I congratulate everyone on the beginning; we really believe in it, in Petrovske and Zolote. I want to reassure the local citizens; I guarantee personally that you will be protected and the disengagement will not influence your security. The example of it is the situation in Stanytsia Luhanska, where the successful disengagement of the forces took place; the pedestrian bridge is under restoration now and we plan to build the fundamental bridge until the end of November,” Zelensky stated.
Essentially, the Normandy Four group agreed to the following:
- The former Foreign Minister of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, back in 2015, proposed a procedure for granting the Donbass a special status, which is stipulated by the Minsk Agreements;
- The idea was approved at the meeting of the “Norman Four” in the same year and was called the “Steinmeier formula”;
- It suggests that elections should be held in territories controlled by Luhansk and Donetsk, according to Ukrainian law;
- during the elections, Donbass would receive a special status;
- And after the OSCE recognizes the elections as fair and free, the law on the special status of Donbass should come into force and act indefinitely;
- It is assumed that this should accelerate the implementation of the Minsk agreement. Western sources speculate that this may also lead to the phased lifting of sanctions against Russia.
The signing of the Steinmeier formula, though, led to nationalist protests in front of the Parliament in Kiev.
Several hundred representatives of nationalist parties gathered on Constitution Square to call for a reversal of the decision. The nationalists held flares and banners calling for the protection of ‘national interest’ and the prevention of the implementation of the formula.
On October 2nd, Zelensky announced that a law on the special status of the Donbass would be voted in the Ukrainian parliament. President Zelensky told a news conference later that the Steinmeier formula had to be implemented in a new law on a special status. He said the current law on Donbass special status would be in force until December 31 and a new law would be drawn up by the parliament in close coordination and after a discussion with the public.
Director of the Russian Center for Current Politics Alexei Chesnakov said that this move actually immediately signaled Kiev’s intention of disavowing its signing of the Steinmeier formula.
“Zelensky’s statement that a new law on a special status of Donbass would be passed, arouses concerns,” Chesnakov said. “This is reminiscent of Poroshenko’s behavior, who immediately sought to disavow his own steps in order to puzzle and con everyone. On the one hand, Zelensky signs the Steinmeier formula that guarantees a special status for Donbass. But on the other hand, he immediately announces that this is not a special status, but some other new status, but it is still unclear which one.”
This mirrors Poroshenko’s drive to dilute the Minsk process, reduce it to imitation and even nonsense, Chesnakov stressed.
“Certainly, neither Russia nor Donbass will recognize any new law on a special status unless they coordinate it. The Ukrainian president should submit his ideas for discussion of the Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) and the Contact Group,” he said.
While the Kiev regime’s decision to agree on the Steinmeier formula could be described as a positive step on the road to the possible de-escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, the real implementation of this move is still under the big question. One of the main obstacles is a strong opposition to this decision from the Ukrainian radical nationalists and politicians backed by the global bureaucracy.
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