Key to Implementing Minsk: the OSCE

An interview with Kateryna Ivanova, Deutsche Welle, Russian language service, 19 May 2017

In September 2014 and February 2015, the Ukrainian government and the Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine agreed on a cease-fire and a set of measures to transform the conflict into a territorial autonomy settlement for the occupied Russian-speaking region inside Ukraine. The implementation of these so-called Minsk Agreements is, however, blocked by the conflicting parties’ unwillingness to negotiate a sequence of steps for holding free and fair elections in a secure environment. Kyiv insists on re-establishing Ukraine’s control over the border between Russia and the separatist-controlled areas in order to stop the inflow of weapons and fighters and to guarantee the security of local voters. In contrast, Moscow and the separatists prefer to hold elections first.

Initially both Kyiv and the separatists had accepted the monitoring role assigned to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In May 2017, the separatists increasingly hindered the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, while the cease-fire was more frequently violated than during 2016. These worrying developments prompted more intense diplomatic efforts to reinforce the role of the OSCE. In my interview with Deutsche Welle, I stressed the salience of the OSCE Mission for both sides of the conflict:

“To facilitate future elections in Donbass, the OSCE must perform its stabilizing function. This role has been severely constrained by the separatists who prohibited the free movement of OSCE observers in the occupied territory. A stronger role of the OSCE is indispensable for the elections to be taken seriously.”