On Thursday, October 24, in the “Fakty” newspaper, Ukrainian MP, Vadym Novynskyi published an article “From the “Steinmeier Formula” to the Ukrainian Formula of Peace”.
All resolutions on peace and high-profile political statements pale by the war, tormenting Ukraine for the sixth year. More than ten thousand dead, millions of injured and destitute, irreconcilable political confrontation and multibillion-dollar economic losses – this is the real price paid by the people of Ukraine for cowardice, hypocrisy, political cowardice and cynicism of politicians. The country remains with a lacerated wound, open trenches, checkpoints and an economic blockade. It is possible to justify this inaction by the intervention of Russia and the United States in internal affairs, the inconsistency of Europe, as well as the weakness of our state. But these explanations are inactive and the politicians themselves are afraid of responsibility.
“In the Donbas, oncoming traffic is necessary”
The five-year leadership of the country by the team of Petro Poroshenko was marked by corruption and lawlessness and was covered by war as a screen. Everything was written off for the war – failures in the economy and in the social sphere, raiding, as well as systemic violations of human rights. Any manifestations of dissent were declared to be work on the enemy. Any criticism of the government related to the intrigues of the Kremlin. At the same time, the government did not particularly hide the fact that it frankly needed neither Crimea nor the Donbas – regions electorally alien to Poroshenko and his team. For five years, official Kyiv did nothing to restore peace, as well as deepened the country’s division in every way, escalating militaristic rhetoric and using hate speech.
This was well seen and felt by the citizens of the country. They have already expressed their anger and protest, their demand for peace in Ukraine in the last presidential and parliamentary elections. The previous authorities suffered a catastrophic defeat – and it was the issue of war and peace that was the main issue on the election agenda. Now we have a real chance to establish peace and restore the unity of the country.
On October 1, 2019, the Minsk Group made a breakthrough – agreed on the procedure for making decisions on ensuring security, holding elections in the Donbas according to Ukrainian legislation and restoring the border of Ukraine. However, almost immediately the authorities passed up before the “party of war”, appealing to the crowd, appropriating the right to speak on behalf of the people. Excuses of President Zelenskyy, diplomatic balancing act of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Prystaiko, strange statements by representatives of Ukraine in the Minsk Contact Group, provocation of “volunteers” in Zolote – this creates a depressing impression: the peace process is stalled again, and someone is rubbing his hands, hoping that the regime will resume war.
I believe that in the near future the Normandy group (if its summit is not disrupted by a group of political “hawks”) should come to a specific document – an agreement, a plan, as you like – in which mutual guarantees would be given for the fulfillment of previously undertaken obligations to end hostilities, restore the state border of Ukraine and help Ukraine overcome the consequences of the war. The main thing: it must be a binding document. And it is necessary to clearly coordinate the mechanism of control over its implementation, the mechanism of influence on the parties to the conflict and the mechanism of coercion to implement it.
For millions of people suffering from war, the truth is one thing: either – war, no matter what slogans it covers, or – the establishment of a sustainable peace and the path to general reconciliation. We are simply obliged to use our chance for peace.
Decisions about the peace and the beginning of practical steps to implement the political, military and economic components of the Peace Action Plan cause a lot of fears, prejudices, even open opposition. Opponents of the peace openly blackmail authorities and society with new Maidan and revolutions, not hiding their willingness to use force, as well as violate laws.
It is also alarming that the “hawks” again use the decisions of local authorities as a battering ram that destroys the state. Speculations around individual problems and tasks of the peace process have lead us into a dead end: the opponents of the peace do not believe in the power of new solutions, fears of new conflicts are cultivated in society, and some of the ATO participants perceive peace initiatives and commitments as their defeat and even betrayal.
The situation is complicated. Ukraine is half a step away from the peace process and at the same time – at the line of a new political crisis dangerous for the state.
We all remember the reports of Poroshenko and his diplomats on the agreements in 2014–2015–2016, but after these reports hostilities began, and as a result there were no specific decisions. Finally, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine should be included in the work. An authorized group of MPs should be created in parliament to participate in negotiations to ensure and implement an agreed peace plan.
Moreover, we must initiate the creation of an inter-parliamentary format in Minsk, where representatives of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, deputies from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and lawmakers from the State Duma of the Russian Federation would work together. Representatives of the so-called national assemblies from the unrecognized republics of the Donbas may also be present there as observers. After all, in the Donbas we need oncoming traffic. If we are talking about elections, security guarantees, de-internationalization of the conflict, as well as restoring the border, then without political support this will be practically impossible.
“There can be no winners or losers in the peace process”
Now there is a lot of discussion about the formulas and plans for the return of the Donbas. I am sure that we need not just a mechanical plan, but a comprehensive strategy in which the goals of achieving a common civil peace in Ukraine and the revival of the Donbas as part of the country are interconnected.
In other words, the Ukrainian “Formula of Peace” is necessary, which is understandable, acceptable and answers the painful question of what will be our common future. The Steinmeier Formula, around which there is much debate, is not such an all-encompassing formula. It provides short-term recipes to encourage the collective West to say: “Can you see, they don’t shoot, they live within the framework of one state – that means we have reached the goal? ” The Steinmeier Formula suffers from an excess of formalism, and therefore we need our own formula for national reconciliation.
In this formula, there are three unifying principles: Humanity - Dialogue - Unity of Ukraine.
Humanity and overcoming the war as crimes against human life should unite politicians and society in deciding on the recognition and support of the peace plan. It is about restoring a single humanitarian space, which cannot be achieved without internal compromises. The insistent demand for accelerated Ukrainization, the specific imposition of history with a regional (Galician) bias, and persecution of canonical Orthodoxy will never be unifying factors.
The most important role in finding a compromise should be played by the Ukrainian media, which previously played by no means the most positive role in deepening the conflict and in creating a special atmosphere of hatred. An “information spread” is needed. It has long been time for the leading media to agree on a kind of “peaceful information policy” that would help people overcome their fears, rule out propaganda of power scenarios and infringement of the rights of those who live in territories affected by the war. It is necessary to learn to see fellow citizens in each other, rather than the enemies. After all, the northerners and southerners learned to live within the framework of one country after the Civil War in the USA. Thomas Carlyle defined a nation as a community of people united by a common future – emphasis is necessary on the future.
There can be no winners or losers in the peace process, because peaceful life does not have battles and hostilities to defeat. In the process of creating a common humanitarian field, I also see the important role that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can play – an institution that has not only authority and influence on both sides of the conflict line, but also centuries-old experience in organizing civil dialogue and overcoming the consequences of wars.
It is fundamentally important to create a clear plan for synchronizing political, diplomatic, legal and socio-economic steps. The Minsk agreements set the framework, but cannot cover the large number of nuances of the technical, legal, and economic aspects. Up to such nuances as the implementation of the allocation of funds for elections in uncontrolled territories: how to allocate funds? Where to send them? Who is the recipient? How to achieve transparent reporting? There are hundreds of such issues, they go beyond the framework of the Minsk agreements, and they need to be provided now.
It is very important to include in the structure of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine the position of Vice Prime Minister for the Reintegration of the Donbas, an official in the executive branch, who would coordinate the activities of all relevant ministries, working to resolve the issue of returning uncontrolled territories to the Ukrainian legal, humanitarian and economic field. His competence should include the elimination of barriers for closer contacts between citizens, improving the business climate, etc.
The implementation of security measures and a freer order of movement of citizens will create conditions for improving the terms of trade and revitalize the economy of the region. But during the war years, many draconian decisions have been made – from restricting trade to controlling financial transactions – which can put any entrepreneur and even ordinary citizen under attack and at the risk of prosecution by law enforcement agencies. Therefore, a phased expansion of the list of goods allowed for trade, streamlining of settlements (possibly through the creation of temporary settlement and financial centers), the creation of trading floors at the interregional level are necessary. An immediate lifting of the economic blockade of the Donbas, which has already led to enormous economic losses, is necessary. The restoration of economic relations will require considerable time and effort due to the policy of “military populism” of the previous leadership of the country.
The main thing is that our citizens do not become an involuntary victim of the “war regime”, which functioned (and continues to function) during the years of economic blockade and limited the rights of millions of our people.
It is very important to complete work on the regulatory framework on amnesty, transitional justice, social protection of migrants and victims of hostilities in time. But the main thing now is to reach a political compromise on the legislation on the peculiarities of local self-government and the concept of elections in the Donbas, and thus fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements.
“The revival of the whole of Ukraine will begin with the revival of the Donbas”
The cessation of hostilities, political decisions and the first measures for social support are important, but only the first steps. They will create a new situation in Ukraine. As soon as a steady ceasefire sets in, a huge space of contacts, communication, and information exchange will arise. It will be very difficult psychologically and emotionally, and it is important to understand. Society needs a new atmosphere of reconciliation.
Last year, we held a conference in Zagreb, which both Ukrainian politicians and representatives of the Balkan peoples who went through military conflicts, were invited to. We were interested in the experience of the Balkan states in the peaceful settlement of conflict situations and the possibility of applying their experience in our conditions. Influential politicians (including former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić and former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor) said that the real peace was not based on military operations in Slavonia, but on government actions to restore confidence. On the border between Croatia and the Serbian Krajina, prerequisites for dialogue at the level of ordinary citizens were created and stimulated – up to the opening of joint clubs, shops, as well as bazaars and so on. If someone today speaks of a “Croatian scenario” for Ukraine, then it is necessary to recall precisely such moments, rather than the assault on Vukovar.
The preparation and conduct of elections to local authorities under new legislation will be of key importance. The successful holding of elections, according to the Minsk agreements, will guarantee a full restoration of the sovereignty of Ukraine, its borders, the controllability of the territory in accordance with the updated Ukrainian legislation.
Elections are always a dialogue: voters with politicians, citizens with the state, the media and public organizations.
If one of the radicals thinks that after militant speeches and war they are awaited in the Donbas with open arms, he is deeply mistaken. The political leaders of the so-called “party of war” on both sides of the conflict will for a long time be a symbol of misfortune and loss for the Donbas and the whole Ukraine. The truth is that for many of the so-called “separatist leaders” in Ukraine there is no trust and recognition.
First of all, the Donbas needs its own “peace team” – people who are ready to work in self-government and the economy with a view to reconciliation and interaction. And we have yet to create such a team. That is why it is necessary to begin training for work in an environment that until recently was hostile.
Secondly, the Donbas (like Ukraine) needs a respite from a frenzied ideological struggle. I see only one way here: to return the elections under the majority system to local authorities and to prevent an inter-party “dump” in future elections. Any elections on a party basis in the Donbas will be artificial: today there are no Ukrainian political parties, and hastily created structures or “hired” activists will not be perceived as representing the interests of residents of once uncontrolled territories.
Thirdly, immediately after the elections, it is necessary to organize the Forum on the Donbas as a permanent platform for dialogue between the territorial authorities, the government, parliamentarians, and experts. I hope that the Economic Forum in Mariupol on October 29 will become the prototype of such an institution, the beginning of a big and honest discussion about a common future, and in the near future such a Forum will work in Donetsk. At the sites of this Forum there will be an opportunity to organize a constant dialogue of civic activists, journalists, scientists and practitioners, entrepreneurs and trade unions. The work of such a Forum is a practical, joint work on the return of the Donbas, the development of a common view on the future of the Donbas.
I am sure that the return and revival of the Donbas is a common cause for all citizens of Ukraine. I am convinced that the revival of the whole of Ukraine will begin with the revival of the Donbas.
Today the word “collegiality” has slightly devalued – as a synonym for the concepts of “common cause”, “the cause of each and everyone”. Collegiality foresees the involvement of citizens in a single process.
I often hear from politicians and experts the idea that it is better, having fenced off from the Donbas, to build a successful country, and then the Donbas itself will return. This is a huge, tragic mistake. People trust those who are able to unite, support and live in peace together.
How can Ukraine become unified not only in words but in deeds?
Millions of residents of the Donbas for more than five years could not leave the borders of their region and neighboring regions. Like millions of Ukrainians, all these years they have not been in the Donbas.
Freedom of movement, travel to family and leisure, new jobs, participation in major business projects and construction projects, educational trips of schoolchildren and students – all this we have to return to our compatriots as their inalienable right and opportunity. And it remains to be constantly stimulated.
Recently, self-government associations actively worked – the association of local self-government and cities, associations of territorial communities. Each region, each city could become participants in assistance programs for the restoration of territories, take under their patronage individual settlements or social facilities. Local government associations should be the initiators and coordinators of such work. Builders and doctors, transport workers and housing and communal workers with the support of local budgets will become a real Ukrainian humanitarian mission. For the Donbas, this is ten times more important and more necessary than the assistance of international funds. Because this is the assistance and support from their fellow countrymen, the revival of living ties between people.
The revival of the Donbas can be a common cause for broad business circles. After all, the revival of the region’s economy is new markets and opportunities, new projects and contracts. But after the war and alone it is difficult to start such projects. Another thing is joining forces, harmonizing common programs.
The Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agricultural and entrepreneurial associations are another participant in the peace process. The new and demanded by time agro-industrial alliance, uniting various unions and associations, is another practical step towards a new collegiality. After diplomats and politicians, business can become a new peacekeeping force.
These proposals are only a general outline of the peace plan, which I called the Ukrainian “Formula of Peace”. Its components – “Humanity – Dialogue – Collegiality of Ukraine” – in my view, allow us to break out of the wilds of endless disputes and political confrontation that lead us to a standstill.
In the process of restoring peace, it is imperative that the authorities demonstrate will and consistency, while citizens demonstrate willingness and awareness. The people and those to whom they have delegated a mandate for peace should say their word. Realizing that there are the absolute majority of peace supporters in Ukraine, I am confident that the “Peace Formula” will become a real roadmap for the country and society for the coming years.
Ukrainian “Formula of Peace”: the main stages of peacekeeping
First step. Preparatory
1) Political and diplomatic steps and security measures
Troop withdrawals. Organization of mine clearance work. Law enforcement in the demilitarized territories, including the involvement of the international peacekeeping contingent.
2) Legal and socio-economic measures
The adoption of laws on the peculiarities of local self-government, on the municipal police, on the amnesty of participants in the armed conflict in the Donbas 2014-2019, on elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, on transitional justice, on the temporary stay of the international military contingent with law enforcement functions, on the creation of the State Fund for the restoration of the Donbas, etc.
Legislative resolution of the dual citizenship problem (over the past five years, more than 40 thousand citizens of Ukraine in the Donbas have received Russian citizenship without leaving the citizenship of Ukraine, and this will have to be taken into account; today it is necessary to consider how this issue will be further regulated).
Simplification of the movement of citizens. Removing bans on the volumes of goods transported by citizens, small and medium-sized businesses, expanding the range of consumer goods for which the ban should be lifted. The restoration of social infrastructure in the settlements of the former frontline zone (pensions and social benefits, medical assistance, administrative services to the population).
Second phase. Reboot
1) Political and diplomatic steps and security measures
The demilitarization of the Donbas. The de-internationalization of the composition of the armed forces and formations that took part in hostilities. Ensuring control over the deployment and storage of heavy military equipment with the participation of the OSCE. The completion of the cadence of self-proclaimed authorities. The disbandment of armed groups and amnesty procedures.
2) Socio-economic measures
The resumption of supply of electricity, energy. Solving debt issues. The creation of a temporary financial and banking infrastructure for the provision of financial services to the population, preparation of the electoral process from among authorized state banks. Consistent removal from the ban of goods and transportation services, an increase in the volume of trade in food products. The resumption of direct production and wholesale trade supplies.
This is the most important and crucial stage when the residents of the Donbas can receive additional humanitarian assistance, access to quality medical care and social security.
The third stage. Reintegration of the Donbas
1) Political and diplomatic steps and security measures
Conducting elections to local governments in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Restoring full control on the eastern state border of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The restoration of international law of the sea in the waters of the Sea of Azov. The investigation of war crimes against civilians.
2) Socio-economic measures
Transfer of all settlements to the basis of the national currency. The creation of a government body (Agency) to ensure procedures for the restoration of property rights (state, corporate) and restoration of owners in their rights (restitution). The establishment of the International Donbas Recovery Assistance Fund. The adoption of a state program to restore the economy of the Donbas, using public-private partnership mechanisms. The organization of a permanent Forum on the Donbas (Mariupol-Donetsk). The implementation of programs of interregional mutual assistance (region, city of Ukraine – Donbas).
It must be understood that the final peace will not come to our land soon. The peace does not come immediately after the ink dries on the signed peace treaties. The peace is a long process, and in many countries it takes a very long time to achieve it. After all, war is not just mutual hatred and resentment. These are human tragedies, grief, deprivation, loss of near and dear ones. But our task is to do everything so that this process goes as quickly as possible. And that means – we must work to restore confidence. Trust is precisely the cement, which should strengthen our country and lay a solid foundation for our further development.