Ex-president Kravchuk to lead Ukraine delegation at Donbas peace talks
Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of Ukraine, announced on July 30 that he has agreed to accept the President’s Office offer to lead the Ukrainian delegation at the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk to resolve the warfare in Donbas. President Zelensky signed a decree appointing Kravchuk the same day. The 86-year-old Kravchuk is replacing his successor as president, the 81-year-old Leonid Kuchma, who resigned the position on July 28. In his first remarks, Kravchuk vowed “to do everything possible to achieve peace,” as reported on the President’s Office website. Kravchuk credited the Zelensky administration for organizing the December Normandy Four summit in Paris, as well as working to prepare a similar summit in Berlin. Zelensky isn’t afraid of unpopular decisions to achieve peace, Kravchuk said.
“Time for rest hasn’t come. And I made the decision – if I can, yet I want this – to do something to hasten peace in Donbas. I will do with until my last breath,” Kravchuk said in a video statement from the President’s Office. In an interview published later the same day on the rbc.ua news site, Kravchuk said he will lead the Ukrainian delegation in seeking compromises with the Russians, though not on Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and borders.
Kravchuk will occupy a position that has been largely nominal at the Minsk peace talks, said on his Facebook page Denys Kazansky, a well-known blogger and part of the delegation’s subgroup of Donbas citizens. He said he “never came across, and never felt the participation” of Kravchuk’s predecessor, Kuchma, as head of the delegation. As for compromises, Kazansky said it’s hard for him to imagine that they will be found since the Russian position is “either our way, or no way,” he said.
Zenon Zawada: Zelensky has developed a reputation for making poor personnel appointments, and this one merely adds to the list. We don’t see anything positive in Kravchuk’s appointment, other than adding some measure of symbolic gravitas to the talks as a former president. Yet Kravchuk has already seemed to fumble that, repeating Zelensky’s call “to do everything possible for peace” and seek compromises, thereby alienating Ukraine’s Western-oriented population, which understands that the only peace Russia will accept will be based on capitulation.
Yet Kravchuk’s appointment disappoints the Russians as well, having called for Ukraine to join NATO. Though an active political commentator, Kravchuk hasn’t held any official government post, nor elected office, since his presidency concluded in 1994.
We expect Kravchuk to play the symbolic role held by Kuchma in recent years, while the seasoned lawyer Oleksiy Reznikov (Kravchuk’s deputy head in the delegation) will be the main negotiator at the Minsk peace talks. And in the shadows, Andriy Yermak (Zelensky’s pointman on Donbas) will remain in close contact with Dmitry Kozak (Putin’s pointman on Donbas).