Ukraine threatens to abandon the Minsk Accords

14 May 2019

Ukraine will abandon the Minsk Accords in the event that Germany, France and other states remove sanctions against Russia in the Council of Europe, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the news site in Brussels on May 13. He said he informed EU diplomats of this decision, telling them, “If you do that, as several countries would like, I will emerge that day and say that we don’t have the Minsk Accords anymore. And they were killed not only by Russia, but that you also killed it.” He said he also told them, “If now – after Russia having begun to distribute passports – you will take steps on behalf of Russia, then the entire logic of what we have done so far is completely ruined.”


On May 6, French President Emmanuel Macron told Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, that he hopes Russia will remain in the Council of Europe, as reported by the news site that day. Macron’s position echoed that of the German government, which reiterated in April that Russia should remain a member. Jagland, who has worked to find compromise on sanctions with Russia, told the AFP news agency on May 3 that he sees good chances for Russia to remain amid the current negotiations being conducted between the ministers committee of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.


Zenon Zawada: Klimkin’s threat is hollow on several levels. It’s Ukraine that is ultimately dependent on the Western powers and is not in the position to make demands or threats. Instead, Ukrainian diplomats should be making better arguments or offering better alternatives. Secondly, the Minsk Accords are widely recognized to have worn out their usefulness, with few people expecting them to be fulfilled for a few years now. Moreover, the Minsk Accords were intended to benefit Ukraine more so than the West, yet Klimkin’s threat would imply otherwise.


Klimkin’s statement is also irresponsible because the Poroshenko administration is a lame duck that shouldn’t be making bold decisions or statements ahead of a transfer in power. So Klimkin’s threat, which evokes more feelings of pity rather than respect, will have no effect on the decision of the Western powers, which are moving towards renewing Russia’s presence in the Council of Europe.


In Ukraine’s foreign policy, the Poroshenko administration’s legacy will be in securing Ukraine’s close, short-term cooperation with Western authorities in its war against Russian aggression. This cooperation was not only with Western governments, but especially IFIs. But the Poroshenko administration failed to form a unified alliance against Russia for the mid- to long term, having focused dilpomatic efforts on resolving the war in Donbas (with the Minsk Accords) when this is truly a war on the Ukrainian state and the post-WW2 global order as a whole.


The Poroshenko administration will conclude its foreign policy legacy having left its successors with the burden of having to rebuild trust and support among the Europeans, which it eroded in recent years with its resistance to Western-sponsored reforms, reluctance to build rule of law and fight corruption, and an inability to make progress in the war in Donbas. The Zelenskiy foreign policy team will essentially have to start from scratch in resolving the war in Donbas with the Russians, now that the Minsk Accords have been discredited and European bodies being less eager to impose more sanctions on Russia.