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Zelenskyy’s Donbas Plan: Sign of Surrender or Stepping Stone to Peace?
8 October, 2019
The news that Ukraine approved the Steinmeier formula split the society – some see it as a surrender of national interests while others accept it as a stepping stone to the establishment of peace in eastern Ukraine.

News of Donbas chief editor Oleksiy Matsuka commends the new authorities for their achievements in the humanitarian dimension – that the bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska is being built and that residents of the occupied territories now have hope of receiving Ukrainian pensions.

At the same time, Mariya Ionova, an MP from Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity questions the price of these achievements by citing the fact that the new bridge would be “wide enough for tanks to [pass]”, which was one of Russia’s conditions.

READ MORE: The Steinmeier Formula: What Could It Mean For Ukraine?

Speaking on behalf of the people of the Donbas, Matsuka praises Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s conversation with people from the other side. The journalist believes “these people finally heard a clear signal from Kyiv that they are a part of Ukraine.” Admitting that “the fast steps on the political track” cause Ukrainians to fear the next moves, he notes that the release of political prisoners and Ukrainian sailors was another “positive experience.”

Ionova, on the other hand, urges to see the whole picture of the circumstances in which the Minsk Protocol was signed: both parts were agreed in the aftermath of the two cauldrons where the Ukrainian military suffered the heaviest losses: Ilovaisk and Debaltseve. She stresses that the approach taken by the previous president stipulated for security issues to be primary and only guarantees on them could pave the way for the political part of the Minsk agreements. 

READ MORE: Ukraine's Zelenskyy Explains the "Steinmeier Formula"

The MP believes that the whole issue is “lack of communication” and adds that on top of that the different messages coming from Zelenskyy’s team confuse people – “they [fail to] understand the picture and the chronology of the events”. Another thing that worries her is that Ukraine only hears about guarantees from one side, with the head of state taking responsibility for the fate of inhabitants of settlements where disengagement of forces will take place: Zolote, Petrivske and Stanytsia Luhanska. Ionova emphasizes there have been “no guarantees [with regard to] security issues from the Russian Federation”.

READ MORE: Key Stakeholders Willing to Move Forward in Implementing Minsk Agreements – OSCE’s Secretary General

Matsuka admits that despite Zelenskyy’s frequent promises that he would never surrender Ukraine, a substantial part of the society finds it “difficult to trust him”. He proceeds to draw attention to the fact that no arguments have been voiced that would be used to convince Vladimir Putin at the Normandy format summit. At the same time, he notes despite the mixed views on the upcoming disengagement from the residents of the affected villages in the Donbas, what these people ultimately want is peace and satisfaction of their primary needs.

READ MORE: Donbas Expert on "Steinmeier Formula," "Red Lines," "Capitulation," and "Junta"