Canada Must Demand That the Minsk Agreements be Repealed

A couple of weeks ago, quite unexpectedly, a breakthrough happened in the way the world speaks about the war in Ukraine as the Euobserver issued an article “EU breaks taboo on ‘Russian forces in Ukraine'”. It has been quite noticeable that, in the West, there was a ban on saying that the good part of the organized and well-armed troops in Ukraine is actually Russian regular forces. The New Pathway has called many times upon the Canadian public and media to name the conflict a war with Russia, not some “separatist uprising” or “civil war”. As the article in the Euobserver said, (EU foreign relations chief Federica) “Mogherini has, since coming to office, and with the exception of Russia-annexed Crimea, avoided any reference to the Russian military in Ukraine.” Now, the EU, in its legal documents, accuses Russian defense officials in “supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine”.

Perhaps a coincidence, Pope Francis changed his wording about the war in Ukraine at the same time as the EU did. The joint declaration, which Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill signed in Havana earlier in February, talked about “the hostility in Ukraine” and called upon “all the parts involved in the conflict” without actually naming Russia as part of the conflict. In his remarks after the meeting in Havana, Pope Francis said that he received both presidents of Ukraine and Russia. In his commentary about these remarks, Fr. Andriy Chirovsky, founder and first Director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, said that, this way, the Pope publicly acknowledged “for the first time that the war in Ukraine is not an internal matter, some sort of civil war, as Moscow continually claims, but that it involves two separate countries.”

Three weeks have passed since. Has this change of rhetoric brought about or at least coincided with any changes in the EU politics? Only slightly, at best. Probably because of the staunch Ukrainian opposition, the EU leaders are no longer insisting on Ukraine’s passing new Constitution with a “special” status for the occupied territories in it. Instead, Germany’s and France’s foreign ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault are now insisting that elections in the occupied territories be held ASAP, in the first half of 2016, to be precise.

As the Ukrainian proverb goes, “Не вмер Данило, так болячка задавила” (Danylo did not die, but the illness finished him off). There is no big difference in trying to maim Ukraine’s constitution at Putin’s request and “just” legitimizing his puppets as a result of the “elections”. We are putting the elections in quotation marks because, as it appears, the Minsk agreement demands that the elections be held before Ukraine resumes its control over the border. To assume that there could be fair elections in the presence of the Russian occupation force is a cruel joke. This agreement was signed the night when Putin’s forces were levelling Debaltseve which German and French leaders knew perfectly about. Why was Europe’s position so weak then and why is it so deplorable now? Apart from shoving the Russian demands down Ukraine’s throat, Europe now wants Ukraine to pay for the West’s failure in the Middle East too and accept Syrian refugees although the country has more than 1.7 million of internally displaced persons.

America’s position is not much better. The last weeks have seen numerous open statements from top officials of the EU, NATO and the U.S. that the Russian forces have killed hundreds of civilians in Syria and that those forces are actually not fighting IS but trying to compromise the European security by creating the flood of immigrants. And yet, the U.S. and Russia have just created a joint task force to investigate violations of the ceasefire in Syria. This kind of politics is nothing short of an appeasement of the aggressor.

It has become clear that the Minsk agreements, apart from being defunct, are simply unfair. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion made a right emphasis in early February when he said that the Minsk agreements should be fully implemented, “particularly by Russia”. It’s time Canada went further and demanded to toughen the Western stance on Russia. The Minsk agreements should be repealed and Canada should demand that the West tells Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, before elections can occur in the currently occupied territories. And to free Nadiya Savchenko and dozens of other Ukrainian POWs.