Office of External Relations
February 15, 2020


Ukraine’s Zelensky urged by Putin to stick to peace plan

Agreements intended to bring an end to violence in eastern Ukraine are poorly observed and beginning to falter.

[ Set aside for a moment the outrageousness of the headline and consider the following line – “poorly observed and beginning to falter.” – The agreements have never been adhered to by Russia and from an unspun perspective have never meant a thing – they were not observed by Putin, period, full stop. RAM ]

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday urged Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to stick to peace agreements to de-escalate the five-year conflict between Kyiv forces and Moscow-backed separatists, the Kremlin said in a blunt statement on Friday. [ Where to begin? Let us start with the pompous little pathological storyteller Putin. He of all people tells Zelenskyy to stick to the peace agreements! Putin wouldn’t know and certainly cannot understand the phenomena of keeping one’s word so common among the normal members of the human race. There is no evidence either the truth or keeping one’s word have even been a part of his character. Add the Putin brazenness to Aljazeera’s succumbing – again – to the Kremlin narrative of “the five-year conflict” as opposed to the reality of Russia’ war against Ukraine and the uneducated or negligently duped might think the above made sense. RAM ]

Putin and Zelensky discussed the settlement of the conflict, the Kremlin said, adding that Putin stressed the importance of the “complete and unconditional implementation” of Western-brokered peace agreements. [ Never mind that Putin has not adhered to any of the agreements. Aljazeera cites Agence France-Presse as the source for this article and that may be true but it reads as if it was simply copied from a Kremlin crib sheet unquestioned. The entire thing is substantively without any merit beyond the promulgation of Putin’s propaganda. RAM]

“Vladimir Putin has posed a direct question – does Kyiv intend to implement Minsk agreements in earnest,” the Kremlin said.

France and Germany helped broker the so-called Minsk agreements in the Belarusian capital – but they are poorly observed and the peace process has essentially ground to a halt.

The 2015 deal calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of Kyiv’s control over its borders, wider autonomy for separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and the holding of local elections. [ Among other things – too numerous to mention – Russia and its controlled so-called separatists – essentially has done nothing it is called on to do but insists the Ukraine hold elections – an insane concept far too many in the west (think especially France and Germany) seem go along with. RAM ]

But Ukraine’s newly appointed chief of Zelensky’s staff, Andriy Yermak, this week cast doubt on the possibility of holding elections in eastern Ukraine in the presence of “illegal armed” groups, and without Kyiv controlling the borders in the east.

Yermak, a close Zelensky ally, has led talks on Russia and a source in the Ukrainian presidency has told AFP news agency that he will remain the main negotiator with Moscow. 

He and Putin met for the first time during a Western-mediated summit in Paris in December.

On Friday, Putin and Zelensky also discussed a further troop pullback in eastern Ukraine and de-mining operations, the Kremlin said.
“Readiness was expressed to continue efforts aimed at the release and exchange” of people held by Russia and Ukraine, the Kremlin added. [ Hum, curious, Putin denies Russians are in Ukraine and the fighting is between Ukraine and so-called separatists, so why does Russia have prisoners? RAM ]

“Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin paid special attention to the process of releasing Ukrainian citizens being held” in Russia, Crimea and Ukraine’s separatist-controlled regions, Kyiv said.

Zelensky managed to negotiate a long-awaited swap with Russia that saw the two countries exchange a total of 70 prisoners in September.

Zelensky and Putin last spoke by phone on December 31.

The Kremlin announced this week it had appointed a new point person for Ukraine, who is seen as a less divisive figure than his predecessor. [ So what? All of this talk is about peace and there will be no peace – no genuine peace – until Putin, who invaded Ukraine, gets his forces out of Donbas and Crimea. To suggest anything else is folly. And to think Putin actually wants peace is extreme folly. That will change only when Ukraine has the leverage of strength to make the cost of the Putin’s aggression too expensive to continue. And that will only happen when the west – or at least the United States and the United Kingdom – meet their promise to assure/guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty otherwise known as the Budapest memorandum. RAM ]

The move could herald a new phase in the talks, a French presidential official has said.

Ties between Ukraine and Russia were shredded after a bloody uprising overthrew a Kremlin-backed government in 2014. [ Hello! This is Putin history, not actual history. The 2014 protests on the Maidan began because then-president Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with Europe at the last minute and, instead sought and got a huge loan from Putin. The Maidan protest morphed into the Euro-Maidan protests as more-and-more became known about the extent of the Yanukovych government’s ravenous corruption. Yet the protests remained peaceful. But when the protests continued Putin urged Yanukovych to put an end to the public protests and snipers started killing peaceful protesters and international outrage mushroomed. Even though representatives of the protesters were trying to negotiate with Yanukovych he chose to flee the country. Granted, this is a cryptic and incomplete review of what happened, but I am not about to let a Kremlin-inspired version stand unchallenged. RAM ]

Moscow went on to annex Crimea and support fighters in eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict, Europe’s only active war. [ Russia’s war on Ukraine – period, full stop. RAM ]

THE BOTTOM LINE in all of this is that in any dealings with Putin, Zelenskyy and Yermak need to take to heart the old story of the scorpion and the frog - - and here is that story slightly amended - - a scorpion named Putin, who could not swim despite all the silly pictures of him bare-chested and some with him in the water, asks a frog named Ukraine to carry him across a river on its back. The frog, Ukraine, hesitates, afraid of being stung by Putin the scorpion, but Putin argues that if stung Ukraine, they would both drown. And, with that a chorus of support for Putin’s argument arises from various western leaders and, although still concerned, the frog Ukraine considers the arguments and agrees to transport Putin the scorpion across the river. Then, just as the frog gets to the other side of the river Putin stings Ukraine doming the frog. Dying the frog asks the scorpion Putin why he stung him after his promise, to which Putin replies, “I couldn’t help it. It is in my nature.” 

All available evidence is that lying and aggressive malevolence is in Putin’s very nature. Ukraine, Zelenskyy beware – always!

The views expressed in bold above are those of Mr. McConnell and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the FOUN.

Bob McConnell
Coordinator, External Relations
U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network

Robert A. McConnell is a co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network. He is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates. Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc, and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.
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