“People’s Republics” electionsSeptember 22, 2015
The Contact Group today meets in Minsk once more, this time the priority will be the “elections” scheduled within the “People’s Republics” in Luhansk and Dontesk, which according to the Minsk Agreements are supposed to be held in accordance with Ukrainian law – which naturally the scheduled “elections” won’t.
NATO General Secretary Jens Soltenberg yesterday made it very clear that the currently scheduled “elections” within the “Republics” will simply not be recognised if they go ahead – “any elections which take place in eastern Ukraine, and which don’t meet Ukrainian legislation, will constitute nothing else but a violation of the Minsk agreements, they will be considered fake, and not a single NATO member state will accept them.”
To be entirely blunt, even if they did go ahead within Ukrainian legislation, it will be a significant stretch to state they will be either free or fair, and if Ukraine invites the OSCE to monitor sanctioned elections? (Only the Government of Ukraine can invite the OSCE to monitor the elections, as neither “Republic” is recognised and is therefore incapable of legitimately inviting the OSCE to do so.)
The credibility of the OSCE will be very much on the line unless the Ukrainian political parties take part, (should they decide to do so, and could the Opposition Block resist trying in its old stronghold, or the other parties refuse without being cast as abandoning The Donbas) on an equal footing with the several “parties” within the “republics”, with the Ukrainian election commission overseeing the process, and with the Ukrainian media crawling all over the occupied territories during pre-election and on election day.
As stated previously – “The Minsk II agreement if implemented will insure a Kremlin loyal political class within The Donbas, with minor political runners and major political riders being at the very least FSB cleared to assume a minor political role, and given the approving Kremlin nod for a significant political role. Such is the dire state of the “People’s Republics” administration, armies of military “volunteers” are being augmented by Russian bureaucrats attempting to create a functioning political and administrative structure. Minsk II also paves the way to institutionalise the swivel-eyed and distinctly criminal into the rule of law Donbas institutions.
Undoubtedly those deemed to loony for the “rule of law” institutions of the “People’s Republics” will end up in the “security companies” that will inevitably spring up (as in the 1990’s) under the guidance of the Donbas Dons such as “Koss” Lyashko and “Little George” Ivanyuschenko who are uncomfortably close to Rinat Akhmetov. Deals will be need to be cut with either Surkov or Volodin in Moscow, depending upon whose puppets in The Donbas eventually take control.”
Indeed the amnesty written into the Minsk Agreements goes directly against the recent UN trend to shun amnesties, as the grim comments of the UNHR Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns make clear “I note that among the package of measures agreed in the Minsk Agreements is a proposal that there be a general amnesty by way of legislation forbidding prosecution or punishment of persons in relation to events that have taken place in the eastern Donbas region. While supportive of measures aimed at deescalating tensions, I am concerned that such legislation could amount to fostering impunity for grave violations of human rights by all parties. Any amnesty devised should be interpreted in such a way as not to include immunity for at least international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Kremlin’s (currently) chosen/tolerated man for Donetsk, Oleksandr Zakharchenko, Mr Heyns unambiguously states has committed a war crime – “In January 2015, following the shelling of a bus station in which several people were killed, Oleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic, made a statement on television announcing that his troops would give no quarter, and take no soldiers of the Ukrainian forces as prisoner. Making such a statement is a war crime. However, available evidence does not seem to indicate that this statement was implemented.”
Thus when “elected” is it politically possible to grant amnesty to Alexander Zakharchenko now a UNHR Special Rapporteur has stated clearly that he committed a war crime (regardless of whether the statement was actually implemented)? It certainly hasn’t been made any easier to include him in any amnesty.
Perhaps Denis Pushilin would be a wiser puppet to install at the top of the occupied Donetsk tree for The Kremlin?
Naturally there will be all manner or war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious crimes that will come to light in the months and years ahead committed by both sides, the majority of which will probably have occurred prior to the shooting down of MH17 when Ukraine was struggling to arm, let alone control volunteer battalions on its side of the line, and only after MH17 did the Kremlin decide to create the 12th (Reserve) Command to provide command and control over its proxies, mercenaries, “volunteers” and military.
Asking the ICC to look at all events from 22nd February 2014 onward is perhaps a very wise thing to do to avoid any notion of bias in (undoubtedly faulty) Ukrainian investigations. (We will see if the ICC goes after MP Oleh Lyashko after all the self-incriminating evidence he placed on youtube in early 2014.)
That these elections have been scheduled outside of the Minsk Agreement is undoubtedly sanctioned by The Kremlin – for when The Kremlin decided it was really time for a ceasefire (1st September) after many deliberate falsehoods, a ceasefire there has been. Thus controlling the timing of these “elections” is well within its ability.
Whether it is yet another instance of The Kremlin playing arsonist and then fireman if the “elections” are canceled in the immediate future in an effort to curry favour and/or try and eek out yet further concessions, or whether it is a Kremlin decision to retain a ceasefire but end the Minsk Agreement charade and freeze the conflict “as is” remains to be seen. It clearly has little hope of the constitutional changes it expected within the Ukrainian constitution, nor of stopping the implementation of the EU-Ukraine DCFTA with effect from 1st January 2016, so freezing “as is” with a hole in the Ukrainian border, it may hope to derail Visa-free for Ukrainians within Schengen as a conciliation.
The fundamental territorial question remains the return of control of Ukrainian borders to Ukraine, and when or if The Kremlin will do so (for it spells the end and abandonment of the “republics” – rigged elections or otherwise, as they are simply economically inviable stand-alone).
The answer, at least in part, perhaps lies in the unknown and continuing financial costs to The Kremlin in subsidising the occupied territories as the occupying power, when other far cheaper political, economic and diplomatic ways to undermine Ukraine exist.
If Jens Soltenberg is to be believed, then very few, if any, meaningful concessions are there to be had for The Kremlin at the Contact Group meeting today – nevertheless it will be interesting to see what concessions are sought, which are rebuffed and which, if any, are given. Indeed with President Putin due to address the UNGA imminently, and a Normandy Four meeting also scheduled on 2nd October, should there be any real expectations of any movement at the Contact Group meeting when bigger stages await potential “magnanimous” presidential acts regarding “elections”?