Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
February 9, 2022
February 12 will mark seven years since Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, with the Russian and OSCE mediation and the assistance of the Normandy format, signed the Package of Measures, which has become the only basis, one that has no alternative, for the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis. After being approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, it has become part of international law, binding for all parties involved.
I would like to remind you that seven years ago, the parties to the conflict agreed to observe a ceasefire, withdraw their forces from the line of contact, grant Donbass a special status within Ukraine and an amnesty for its residents, carry out a constitutional reform with a focus on decentralisation, restoration of socioeconomic ties, and exchange of detained persons. Regrettably, none of this has been implemented. Kiev continues to sabotage its commitments, often demonstrating this in public with the tacit consent of its Western patrons.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has made a number of notorious statements recently, declaring that “there will be no special status, as visualised by Russia, no veto right.” He has also alleged that the Minsk accords do not envisage a dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. I would like to inquire whether he can read. The Minsk accords are not some oral commitments; they exist as a text, this text is available, and it can be perused. Instead of claiming anything of the sort, Ukraine had better reread the Package of Measures.
I would like to respond once again to what he said, I quote: “There will be nothing of the kind, as visualised by Russia.” Russia visualises it exactly as it is written down, and it would be fine if the other parties to and signatories of the agreements, and the participants in the process itself proceeded from the text rather than their vision. Basically, it is a wonderful practice for all those who profess law. It is better to rely on the spirit and the letter of the law rather than engage in interpretations thereby sinking back into the times about which our common Russian-Ukrainian proverb says: “Every law has a loophole.” No! This text was not bequeathed to us by the past generations, with which we are no longer in contact because of the centuries that separate our epochs. The whole thing was done by the active and now living participants in the political process. It was recorded by TV cameras and explained after the signing by Ukrainian officials, among others. It would be good to show to Mr Kuleba, in particular, the video with comments by President Petr Poroshenko and his Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin, who were speaking about a “breakthrough” Ukraine had achieved on the diplomatic track by signing these documents. They also explained in no uncertain terms what was written in the documents and how to interpret them, i.e., exactly as it was committed to paper. So, shall we look for the Poroshenko-Klimkin video or will you find it on your own? We don’t mind sharing. So, once again, returning to the Package of Measures: it states directly the need to discuss and coordinate with Donbass the issues concerning its future.
Unfortunately, we know who is encouraging Ukraine’s disdainful attitude towards the Package of Measures. This is being done by those who are actively operating, rather than merely standing behind Kiev’s back. Of course, we are talking about US handlers. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the other day that it was possible to implement the provisions of the Minsk agreements only if their due order of priority was selected. It is strange that the United States is trying to find an order of priority in a document that clearly sets forth the entire sequence of all the parties’ steps. What is the point of looking for this order of priority? It is necessary to read the document that stipulates everything. These statements, especially their synchronised nature, show one thing: the United States is in favour of revising the Package of Measures, and this may wreck the peace process. All this inspires the Kiev regime to continue treating its own population in a negative manner in the first place, and to continue disregarding international law and common sense, and so on. Unfortunately, we do not hear an adequate response to statements by Ukrainian leaders, including those on the part of the US Department of State, from Germany and France, our colleagues in the Normandy format.
All these double standards of our European colleagues were confirmed this week. Our European colleagues voice their readiness to facilitate a peace settlement and speak about a certain de-escalation. They are urging everyone to do anything, but, in reality, they are providing Kiev with weapons and ignoring the sufferings of Donbass residents. On February 7 and8, the foreign ministers of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic visited the line of contact. This appears to be a noble mission, and the process, advocated by us, has apparently got underway. We are saying all the time that they should go there, see the situation, speak with the people and form an unbiased opinion without the help of their own media outlets, which they themselves provide with all kinds of methodological recommendations and theses. And so, helmeted Western diplomats clad in bulletproof vests rode towards the line of contact. But there is one problem and nuance: they visited an area controlled by Kiev and, for some reason, did not go any further. And I would say that the most tragic, if not interesting, developments are taking place there. Although many international experts, including OSCE observers, are working in the region, Western representatives are painstakingly turning a blind eye on what is happening in Donbass. They simply don’t see these developments and avoid visiting Donetsk and Lugansk. But, if they were in the vicinity, why didn’t they use this opportunity and speak with the people? I had a conversation with Western journalists the other day, and I asked the same question as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. During his interviews and news conferences with Western journalists and while replying to their question about the domestic Ukrainian crisis, he asks them why they don’t go to Donbass. Why do they ask indirect questions, and why do they describe the situation without any first-hand knowledge? What is the problem? We have heard a lot. One of the most surprising and widespread replies is that it is dangerous there.
Our British colleagues compared Russia’s current alleged escalation of the situation regarding Ukraine with the situation in the North Caucasus in the 1990s. I recall that period quite well. They deemed it possible to draw analogies with those developments. Consequently, we should remind them that quite a few journalists, politicians and activists from these countries in Western and Eastern Europe and the United States visited the counter-terrorist operation’s zone then. That was fraught with real, not hypothetical, dangers because terrorists and militants abducted those journalists and public activists and demanded a ransom for them. I am talking about numerous, rather than isolated, incidents. Tremendous ransoms were paid, and journalists later described their own treatment in their books. You should read those books. I read them and was deeply impressed. If the British party considers it possible to draw such analogies, then it would be appropriate to do the same in other areas. We should ask why Western society does not speak with Donbass representatives, why it does not discuss human rights, and why its news reports do not begin with headlines about a humanitarian disaster in Donbass. I believe that it is high time this was done. They are interested in all the regions of the world to which the countries of their accreditation do not belong. Indeed, it is a noble business to cover the situation in all corners of our planet. Those living in the United States are concerned about the Uyghurs, and UK residents always ask questions about Myanmar. But there is one little nuance here: the UK and Ukraine are located on the European continent. One way or another, they are neighbours in terms of common European space, rather than geographic proximity. Why is London concerned about the human rights situation thousands and tens of thousands of kilometres away from the UK, and why do they begin their news reports with human rights matters? They forget about these human rights when this concerns their direct neighbour on the European continent and a country that has accepted all Western values. Does this not also concern Germany, the Czech Republic and other countries? Please don’t be afraid. The line of contact is not a red line for you, and you should cross it, you should pay attention to local residents and show respect for these people who have been suffering for many years because you once inspired Ukrainian politicians to stage an unconstitutional coup.
The West continues to supply weapons and military equipment to one of the parties to the conflict – Kiev. Earlier this week, Sweden and the Netherlands joined the list of countries supporting the Kiev regime’s aggressive, militarist approaches and principles. As you may know, if one is for peace, one is pumped full of weapons. On February 8, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (VSU) launched nationwide command-and-staff exercises, Metel-2022 (Snowstorm-2022). (I hope they will not end in the same way as Alexander Pushkin described in his short story “The Snowstorm.”) So, the troops will be trained to use the NLAW and Javelin antitank missile systems supplied by the UK and the US, respectively, as well as Turkish Bayraktar drones.
We are certain that the de-escalation in Ukraine, which our Western partners have been discussing so much, can be achieved very quickly. For this, they should stop weapon deliveries to Ukraine, withdraw their military advisers and instructors, discontinue joint VSU-NATO exercises, and pull out all earlier supplied foreign armaments to locations beyond the Ukrainian territory. Since the Western world is focused on Ukraine, it should start with the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
To strengthen regional security in the broad sense, NATO ought to announce that it is renouncing its open-doors policy. Kiev, for its part, should return to the neutral, non-bloc status enshrined in the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine of July 16, 1990. The need to implement this Declaration is sealed by the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine of August 24, 1991. The now effective 1996 Constitution of Ukraine contains a provision to the effect that in approving the Fundamental Law the Verkhovna Rada was guided by the said Act.
We call on everyone to stop the artificial fomenting of tensions in and around Ukraine and take practical steps aimed at achieving a real de-escalation and settlement of the Donbass conflict on the no-alternative basis of the Package of Measures. We hope that today’s online meeting of the Contact Group and the upcoming contacts between the political advisers of the Normandy format leaders will lead to positive shifts in the process of peaceful settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict.