Heads of Donbas occupation administrations join Putin’s party, reject Minsk peace plan

Head of Putin's United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev, ex Russian president and PM, presents "LNR head" Pasechnik (L) and "DNR head" Pushilin (R) with party membership cards. Moscow, 4 December 2021. Photo: er.ru 

War in Donbas

On 4 December, the heads of the Russian occupation administrations joined United Russia, Russia’s ruling party. The leader of one of them, speaking on air of Russian media, rejected the Minsk peace plan, stating that he doesn’t see any point in returning the territories of the self-proclaimed “republics” under control of Ukraine. This fact further undermines the seven-year-long Russian propaganda narrative of the “civil war in Ukraine” and the Russian demand that Ukraine should negotiate directly with “representatives of Luhansk and Donetsk.”

During the congress of the Russian ruling party “United Russia” in Moscow on 4 December 2021, heads of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (DNR and LNR) Denis Pushilin (“DNR”) and Leonid Pasechnik (“LNR”) received their party membership cards from the hands of the party’s chairman, former Russian President and PM Dmitry Medvedev.

After that, on the air of Russian media, Pushilin stated that he didn’t see any point in returning the Russian-occupied areas officially known as ORDLO (“certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts”) under the control of Ukraine,

“In any case, we should sit down with him (Volodymyr Zelenskyy, – Ed.) and talk about the neighborhood policies. About the rules. It is no longer a matter of one state,” Pushilin said.

This statement constitutes a rejection of the Minsk protocols, which outline a plan for the solution of the conflict in Donbas and reintegration of the now-occupied territories with Ukraine. Official Kyiv and leaders of western countries currently view the Minsk peace process as the only possible solution to the war in Donbas. Western sanctions against Russia are also conditional on the implementation of the Minsk protocols.

Everything you wanted to know about the Minsk peace deal, but were afraid to ask

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s project Donbas.Realii points out that for the past seven years, the Kremlin has been officially insisting on two points about the armed conflict in Ukraine. The first is that Russia isn’t taking part in the war in Ukraine, hence that is an internal conflict or a civil war. The second one, based on the first, is that for the sake of settlement of the conflict, official Kyiv should conduct direct negotiations “with Donetsk and Luhansk,” while Russia is nothing else than a mediator in this process.

Many times the Ukrainian authorities, Ukraine’s international partners, and experts have emphasized that Moscow’s position, behavior, and role show that it is a party to the conflict.

Now, on 4 December, the Kremlin has effectively thwarted its own rhetorics by making the LDNR leaders, with whom it had previously called on Ukraine to negotiate, members of Russia’s ruling United Russia party.

Back in May 2020, according to Donbas.Realii, the Ukrainian delegation in the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas (Ukraine-Russia-OSCE) presented a copy of Denis Pushilin’s Russian passport. Now Russia has officially confirmed the Russian citizenship in the leaders of its occupation administrations in Luhansk and Donetsk, for only a Russian national is eligible to join a Russian party.

Donbas.Realii managed to reach out to the members of the Ukrainian delegation in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), who have regular meetings with the Russian delegation to negotiate various Donbas matters in the so-called Minsk format under the auspices of the OSCE.

All the interviewed TCG members have agreed that the Russian side openly rejects the Minsk format of negotiations, denies its own positions and demands to Ukraine.

This shows up, first of all, in the fact that the members of the Russian delegation from occupied Luhansk and Donetsk don’t even try to demonstrate that the occupation administrations are somehow independent of the Kremlin or at least have some independent position, according to the interviewed members of the Ukrainian delegations in TCG.

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