What You Need To Know:
✅ Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed a decree which formally recognises the passports issued in the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’ (‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’).
✅ The OSCE deployed a Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine back in March 2014. There are currently 720 monitors working in Ukraine. At the moment it is an unarmed, civilian mission.
✅ For now, the OSCE would like their involvement in the area to remain unarmed. As Lamberto Zannier states: ‘Frankly, I don’t see the added value of weapons there. I think the mission is more effective if it remains as it is now, if it remains civilian and unarmed.’
According to Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the formal recognition of self-proclaimed ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ passports ‘complicates things’ in terms of the Minsk Agreements. He stated that: ’It’s not only a matter of the passports themselves, but the recognition of the passports, even if it is justified for humanitarian reasons, it implies recognition of the authorities that have issued the passports. And of course, this then gives status to those authorities’.
Zannier also discussed further plans for OSCE involvement in the area. Apart from increasing the number of monitors from 720 to 800, and ‘tentatively’ looking into creating new disengagement zones, the OSCE is also hoping to make further investments ‘in technology, more cameras, UAVs, certainly that is an area we are looking into, even satellite pictures, commercial satellites, turbine power, strengthening the mission’.
One aspect of OSCE’s involvement in the area that is still uncertain is whether or not the introduction of an armed presence, namely the International Police, would improve with mission in eastern Ukraine. As Zannier mentioned: ‘Given the amount of weapons that we see there, I don’t think that having police with guns would make a difference. So, all in all, my personal preference would be to go for an unarmed police presence. Because we cannot really enforce in these conditions, an environment of safety and security’.
Hromadske’s Angelina Kariakina spoke to the Secretary General of the OSCE, Lamberto Zannier in New York on 21st February 2017.
My first question will be about Russia’s recent decision to acknowledge passports from the illegal entities, DNR and LNR. How would you comment on that and what does it mean in the framework of the whole Minsk process?
My assessment is not positive because this complicates things. It’s not only a matter of the passports themselves, but the recognition of the passports, even if it is justified for humanitarian reasons, it implies recognition of the authorities that have issued the passports. And of course, this then gives status to those authorities. This will obviously complicate things in Minsk, because if on one end, you are looking at decentralisation and elections at some point, how does this square with the fact that these separatist authorities now feel that there is a degree of international recognition. I’ve heard from the Russians that this is a temporary measure, let’s hope it is a temporary measure, to address some urgent humanitarian issues, but then we can go back to where we were before and we can keep working on the longer term issues.
Do you have any understanding of the motivation? Why did it happen?
Well, no. I think you should ask the Russians about that. What I noticed was the timing, because when this happened I was in Munich, I heard some statements from the US leadership, including the Vice President Pence, on the re-commitment to NATO, all very firm statements in continuity of the positions we heard during the Obama administration on Ukraine. So the fact that there was no significant change on the American positions on these keys issues for Russia, somehow coincided with this announcement, So I don’t know whether this is just a casual coincidence, or whether it was a reaction to some of the statements. That will have to be seen in time, whether there is a more polarised political environment around the management of this crisis.
In light of all those things, how would you assess the Minsk progress right now? What is the main obstacle right now in creating the roadmap for going ahead with the Minsk agreement?
Well there are obviously issues in the substance, but the biggest problem we have is in the sequencing of the steps, because on the one side, the Ukrainian side, there is a sequencing which is looking at creating an environment that would allow for the following steps: the ceasefire, the withdrawal of weapons, a situation of peace and the absence of daily ceasefire violations. That would then create the condition for the next steps. On the other hand, we hear from the separatists that the absence of a clear indication on how the other issues will be solved, the decentralisation and the election etc. Without that there is no chance of creating calm on the front line. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg issue, but it’s obviously complicating things a lot, and with this difficult logic, it is also difficult to find a strong commitment to really look into the details of every aspect of the implementation of Minsk.
What does it take for the OSCE to get to the Russia-Ukraine border? What is the main obstacle to get there for the monitors?
The main obstacle for us is the space for maneuvering, we keep having limitations to our freedom of movement. So if suddenly there is acceptance for a larger presence, and a presence that would be throughout the territory that is outside the control of the Ukrainian forces open for monitors, then we can start talking about the functions that we can perform, we are there to help but we need the conditions for us to be able to do that. Those conditions are not there now.
How possible or feasible is this an armed or police mission right now? Because what we hear from the Ukrainian side all the time is that armed mission is necessary because otherwise you cannot provide security. How possible is it right now, at this point?
Given the amount of weapons that we see there, I don’t think that having police with guns would make a difference. So, all in all, my personal preference would be to go for an unarmed police presence. Because we cannot really enforce in these conditions, an environment of safety and security. And also for the international monitors, if we bring international monitors. So what we can do is bring international police, but with the consent of everybody. What we need is the conditions for us to be able to deploy this. And this requires all the prior steps to have been agreed.
Like a ceasefire, the withdrawal…
Ceasefire, the withdrawal , but also the agreement on how the elections are conducted. At that point I don’t expect anybody to object to the presence of international police, which would have a stabilising effect. So just the mere presence of the police would be useful.
Isn’t Russia objecting right now?
Russia says this is premature, if you talk about weapons then they’ll say that the weapons should be given to the monitors on the line of contact. Frankly, I don’t see the added value of weapons there. I think the mission is more effective if it remains as it is now, if it remains civilian and unarmed. I don’t think that giving a weapon to a monitor would achieve anything in this environment where we have to deal with heavily armed military or paramilitary formations.
Are you considering enlarging the budget of this mission? And what are the articles that you are considering? Or the amount of people?
We are considering a moderate expansion of the budget, but it is subject to the decision of the participatory states. So we are also trying not to overdo it, we are trying to be reasonable. But we are looking at an increase of monitors, now there are 720, we are looking at a level of 800, of course with the possibility of expanding further, if there is a need for us to expand further. We are also tentatively planning for an additional number of disengagement areas. Hopefully that will be a development we will see in the course of the year.
So, back to the budget. Investing in technology, more cameras, UAVs, certainly that is an area we are looking into, even satellite pictures, commercial satellites, turbine power and strengthening the mission.