Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responds to questions from Rossiya Segodnya News Agency. Moscow, 16 March 2015
Question: The Verkhovna Rada will review a draft address to the UN Security Council on the potential introduction of peacekeepers. Russia’s position on this score is known. How will we react to this?
Sergey Lavrov: We have no objections to reviewing any proposals but it is necessary to discuss them with the parties of the conflict: the Ukrainian authorities and self-defence fighters of Lugansk and Donetsk. The need for this is laid out in the February 12 package of measures, which compels both sides to start with withdrawing heavy weapons and then to deal with humanitarian issues, such as relief, prisoner exchanges, amnesty, political processes, restoration of socio-economic ties, payment of social allowances and pensions and, of course, constitutional reform. The Minsk agreements define the mission of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, which supervises compliance with these measures, and the Contact Group, which is directly represented by Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk with the participation of the OSCE and Russia. They clearly describe the role of the OSCE mission, the OSCE in general and the Contact Group.
I read the interview that Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin gave to the newspaper Kommersant, in which he commented on the idea of sending a request about a peacekeeping force to the United Nations. When asked why Ukraine did not raise this issue at the Minsk talks if it is so interested in it, he replied that this issue was ostensibly raised at these talks. As for all others, including the leaders of the states concerned, I was working without rest for almost 17 hours straight, but I don’t remember this issue being raised. When asked why this idea is not reflected at all in the Minsk documents, Mr Klimkin said that not all decision-makers attended the Minsk talks. But many of those who must make a decision on the OSCE did not attend these talks either because the OSCE consists of 57 countries.
At any rate, the Minsk agreements were defined as the initiative of the four leaders of the Normandy format that was then submitted to the OSCE. Russia and Germany initiated the elaboration of the relevant draft, and the number of observers in the OSCE Monitoring Mission was increased. Naturally, not all members of the UN Security Council took part in the Minsk agreements. Nonetheless, Russia, France and Germany submitted a relevant draft resolution and the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the Minsk agreements thereof. It is not quite appropriate to say that the Minsk talks were not attended by all those who must make a decision on a peacekeeping operation. As for your question, let me repeat that it is the parties of the conflict that should come to terms on a mutually acceptable form of monitoring compliance with the agreements reached.
Question: Are we ready to discuss this issue in the UN Security Council?
Sergey Lavrov: If the sides of the conflict are interested in this. But many people in the UN Security Council and the European Union will wonder why a new idea emerged a couple of days after the signing of the Minsk agreements.
If some project has to be thwarted it is necessary to continue coming up with new proposals to divert attention. Now that the military aspects of the Minsk agreements are more or less being carried out, the moment of truth is approaching. This is when it will be necessary to switch to political reforms, preparation for municipal elections and the introduction into the Ukrainian Constitution of the provisions on the special status of the self-proclaimed republics by agreement with them. The Minsk accords describe this status in sufficient detail. We are hearing from different sources that a number of Ukrainian leaders are not content with what was done in Minsk. Apparently, instead of implementing them they would like to conduct new discussions.
An UN peacekeeping operation is a lengthy process. It will take a lot of time to accomplish. At first, the Security Council members must approve a relevant resolution; then the said mission must be established and equipped and its mandate and rules of conduct elaborated. But the main point in the political process is an agreement involving both sides. To my knowledge, Lugansk and Donetsk are firm advocates of strict compliance with the Minsk agreements, primarily on the expansion, consolidation and additional equipment of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany supported this idea in Minsk on February 12 and reaffirmed this position during the March 2 telephone conference call. During the foreign ministers’ contacts of the Normandy Four we invariably emphasise the importance of intensifying efforts to implement the Minsk agreements.
In the past few days I spoke over the phone with my colleagues – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development – and they unequivocally reaffirmed the priority of this approach.
Question: Much is being said about potential US arms supplies to Ukraine. Does Russia have a plan on this score? How will Russia react if a relevant decision is made?
Sergey Lavrov: We believe that the overwhelming majority of Europeans still consider this plan highly dangerous, although there are EU officials who are nudging whoever can be nudged to start such arms supplies. This approach is aimed at ruining the Minsk agreements, because this is a direct violation of their provisions on the withdrawal of all foreign arms from Ukraine. This is an old issue. Even the accords of February 21, 2014 that Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Klichko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleg Tyagnibok signed in the presence and with the guarantees of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland had provisions on the disarmament of all illegal formations. This was not done. Such structures as the Right Sector simply refuse to talk about their subordination; they are subordinate only to themselves. The same applies to the “volunteer” battalions that have been set up and paid for by Ukrainian oligarchs. Their subordination and readiness to carry out orders of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief are a major question. It seems that the monopoly on the use of force, which must be immutable in any country, is starting to erode in Ukraine. This is a key principle for any democracy, but Ukraine does not observe it at all.