Article by: Vitaly Portnikov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his interview with Russia’s RBK channel warned that it would not be possible to “continue the work of the Normandy Four” “with a clean slate.”
Lavrov is demanding that the new Ukrainian leadership implement the agreements that have been reached before any renewed contacts among the leaders of the participating nations are possible — even contacts at the level of the ministers of foreign affairs. At the same time, the Russian foreign minister argues that it is not Moscow but Kyiv that is not implementing these agreements. According to Lavrov meetings can take place only after the new Ukrainian leadership executes these agreements – including the decision to ”establish procedures for implementing the law on the special status of Donbas by holding elections in these territories.” In short, Zelensky must first grant autonomy to the occupied territories and legalize the criminal puppet regimes created by Putin and only then will the Russian president decide if it is worth meeting in the “Normandy format.”
Against this background the proposals made in Minsk by former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma take on a different meaning. They become the first step by the new Ukrainian leadership towards implementing Russia’s ultimatum. It is no coincidence that Sergey Lavrov welcomed Kuchma’s return to the Minsk process as well as his statement that “Ukraine must comply with a number of provisions in the Minsk agreements regarding the legislative framework” (obviously I’m quoting not Kuchma himself but Lavrov’s restatement of his words). Now, at least, we understand clearly what the Kremlin is expecting from its longtime partner, from the Ukrainian oligarchs and the new Ukrainian president.
At the same time, even if all of Kremlin’s conditions are met and Ukraine’s capitulation takes place to the sound of the enthusiastic applause of the collaborationist and disoriented segments of our country’s population, this by no means guarantees peace or even relative sovereignty for Ukraine. Indications of Russia’s readiness to continue the dismantling of Ukrainian statehood can be found in the same interview with Lavrov. The Russian foreign affairs minister claims that the “authorities in Kyiv are strangling Russians” when they “pass laws on education, on Ukrainian as the state language, and when they repeal legislation protecting the rights of Russian speakers and other national minorities.” And he warns that “the protection of Russian speakers and of Russian culture and language is policy, and we can never distance ourselves from this policy…Moreover in this instance these are millions of our compatriots. They are Ukrainian citizens but many of them are Russian citizens. There will be more of them given the decision made by the president’s decree.”
In this way Lavrov has demonstrated once again that Moscow not only does not treat Ukraine as an independent state but that it will do everything to erode its institutions to prove that those who live in our country are not only Russian speakers but citizens of the Russian Federation whom the Kremlin must protect. And from this perspective Putin and his compatriots will justify any aggressive action regarding the further occupation of our country and the “protection” of Russian citizens who live here. And the number of these citizens will continue to grow regardless of how many people actually agree to accept Russian passports.
For Putin and Lavrov what is important is propaganda not statistics. And not peace with Ukraine but the destruction of Ukraine – no matter what childish illusions are concocted in this regard by the supporters of Volodymyr Zelensky or what fairy tales Leonid Kuchma spins for us in Minsk.