Having appeared at the ICTV channel's Freedom of Speech program, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadim Pristayko said he saw three scenarios for the Donbass situation to develop, one of them being Kiev's waiver of the self-proclaimed republics' territories.
"I see at least three options: trying to agree within that unfair process we've got into many years ago, buying time forever and a day while our soldiers are being killed and while people on the other side of the contact line grow to hate us for good and all, so that we can never get them back again, or never returning to this part of Ukraine," the Foreign Minister said.
Pristayko has openly stated that Minsk agreements are not being implemented, and Ukraine is stuck in them, losing people and money and not developing as a state. The Foreign Minister is convinced of the need to appeal to the world community to organize a peacekeeping mission "in the occupied territories" and is indignant at the Ukrainian authorities' delaying the Donbass conflict solution. In his opinion, the time wasted on negotiations proved meaningless, because Ukraine was never going to fulfill their terms.
Experts believe that President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team are currently trying to somehow improve the situation, even though not quite successfully.
"Zelensky's team tried to do everything to achieve a Normandy format meeting. On the other hand, there are no signs of their readiness to accept Moscow's terms," political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky is convinced.
Earlier, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine threatened: "If failing to resolve the problem of Donbass, we may proceed to the radical framework."
According to Pogrebinsky, the phrase was dropped imprudently. The political analyst believes that it hints at the possibility of hostilities, but Zelensky and his circle of close associates are unlikely to be taking this case scenario seriously.
The Ukrainian authorities will hardly give up on the Donbass, since this will imply a collapse of the country's entire top-down governance. At the same time, Kiev realizes that the region's return to Ukraine in its current form is next to impossible either. Can anyone make the population of Donbass become loyal to Kiev, considering the theoretical possibility of "reintegration"?
Recently, at a joint briefing with US special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker, Pristayko said Donbass would not get a special status, because it will mean an agreement on the decentralization of Ukraine. At the same time, it is still absolutely unclear what the self-proclaimed republics' residents will be offered in return, especially given the lack of "special status" preconditions.
Over the past five years, Ukraine has signed an association and free trade area agreement with the EU, which is regarded as suicidal for its economy. In case of "reintegration" Donbass will unlikely seek to adopt laws, the drafting of which it wasn't engaged in. It bears reminding that Victor Yanukovych's postponed signing of the Association agreement was the very reason behind the Maidan coup and the subsequent civil war.
The new Ukrainian government has added a strategic course for joining NATO and the EU to the Constitution of Ukraine. The Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics will hardly agree with this after all the tragic developments they had to sustain.
Kiev and Donbass have polar attitudes to the Russian language and Orthodoxy. There is no hope for the abolition of the discriminatory Russian language law, with actions and statements by Zelensky's team representatives providing yet another proof of this. This kind of approach is unacceptable for the region.
After all, the Donbass has also witnessed quite a number of changes over these years. The region learned to live under a blockade and established government and security agencies. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics got Russian passports, as well as a chance to find employment, get medical treatment and education in Russia. At the same time, the region has fully preserved its own vision of history, culture, religion and language.
If Kiev wants to stop further dissociation of Ukraine and Donbass, its interests will have to be taken into account. It will be hardly possible to avoid direct negotiations with representatives of the self-proclaimed republics. One will need to discuss the issues of amnesty and special status, as well as, perhaps, federalization.
However, the policy of both Poroshenko and Zelensky is such that every single Ukrainian law and every innovation make the self-proclaimed republics' residents want to hear less about a common future with Ukraine.
In word, Kiev keeps hoping for a Normandy format meeting in the nearest future, but no specific date has been named so far. There is also talk about signing a "compromise" variant of the Steinmeier formula, the meaning of which is still unclear.
Almost certainly Kiev does consider the option of giving up on the Donbass region. If Ukraine's demands to change the Steinmeier formula fail to find support, the split between Donbass and Ukraine will only intensify. The document will come into force only if the OSCE recognizes the Donbass elections as democratic. There is no sign of this ever going to happen, since Ukrainian political parties, especially the nationalist ones, will hardly be admitted to the election. Should that be the case, the "special status" will never become operative. Apparently, this is what Kiev is reckoning on at the end of the day.