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Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk: The Way Ahead

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Europe, NGOs, Solidarity, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, Track II, UKRAINE, United Nations, United States, World Law on February 9, 2022 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

There are many dimensions to the current tensions on the Ukraine-Donbas-Russia frontiers, both geopolitical and domestic considerations. There are long historic and strategic aspects to the current crisis. Security crises are deeply influenced both by a sense of history and by current perceptions. There have been bilateral discussions between United States (U. S.) and Russian authorities, between Russian and French leaders, between Russian and Chinese leaders, between the Ukrainian leader and a number of others and multilateral discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), within NATO, at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, and within the European Union. For the moment, there has been no de-escalation of tensions nor a lowering of troop levels.

Currently, there is only one permanent structure for multilateral negotiations on the Ukraine tensions – the “Normandy Format” which brings together the representatives of Ukraine and Russia, France, and Germany primarily to negotiate on the status of the separatist People’s Republics.

The Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 agreed that the areas covered by the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would not be separated from Ukraine but would be given a “Special Status” set out in a new Ukrainian Constitution. However, beyond some rather vague discussion on decentralization, the nature of the Special Status has not been agreed upon, and no Ukrainian government administrative measures have been put into place.

In the period since 2015, the socioeconomic situation in the two People’s Republics has gotten worse. Many people have left either for Ukraine or Russia. There are constant violations of the ceasefire agreements which are monitored by observers of the OSCE. Thus, in their December 15, 2021 report, the OSCE monitors noted that between December 10-12, there were 444 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region and 104 in the Luhansk region. However, the freedom of movement of the OSCE observers is restricted. The number of violations, usually exchanges of small arms fire, is probably higher.

Solving the Donbas aspect of the conflict on the basis of a real and vital autonomy and trans-frontier cooperation should be a top priority for action. The Association of World Citizens has always stressed the importance of developing appropriate forms of government as a crucial aspect of the resolution of armed conflicts. The Association has particularly highlighted the possibilities of con-federalism and the need for transfrontier cooperation. The Association was involved at the start of the Abkhazia-Georgia conflict in August 1992 and the first efforts at negotiations carried out in Geneva with representatives from Abkhazia who were in Geneva and officials from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thus, we know how a cycle of action-reaction can deepen a conflict and how difficult it is to reestablish structures of government once separation has been established.

The need to progress on the structure of Ukraine stands out sharply at this time when there are real possibilities of escalatory risks. There is a need for confidence-building measures reaching out to different layers of society in a cumulative process. Advances on the Special Status would be an important step in the deescalation of tensions. Discussions on the Special Status must be carried out by those living in Ukraine. However, government representatives as well as nongovernmental organizations in Russia, Germany, and France can also contribute actively. The new German Foreign Minister, the ecologist Annalena Baerbach, coming from a federalist-structured State with many local initiatives possible, may bring new visions to these discussions which are increasingly under way.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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