Ukraine Appoints New Delegation Leader for Minsk Negotiations
23 November, 2018

Yevhen Marchuk, who has represented Ukraine in a security subgroup of the Minsk agreements since 2015, has become the head of the Ukrainian delegation. He held his first meeting on November 22 as head.

He was appointed by President Petro Poroshenko, who also invited him to join the security subgroup in 2015.

Ukraine’s representative in the humanitarian subgroup of the Minsk negotiations Iryna Herashchenko commented on the appointment, saying that Marchuk is “well orientated to the issues with the Minsk talks and is a tough defender of Ukraine’s national interests.”

The newly appointed head of the Ukrainian delegation for Minsk negotiations Yevhen Marchuk during a briefing in Kyiv on September 22, 2016. Photo credit: Oleksandr Kosariev / UNIAN

Who is Yevhen Marchuk? What experience does he have? And what does he think about the Minsk negotiations.

A long time before Ukraine gained independence, Marchuk left his job as a teacher of Ukrainian language and literature and went to work for the KGB. There, he worked as an operative for 14 years and further 17 years as a leading intelligence and counterintelligence officers. He also has a law degree.

Since Ukraine gained independence, Marchuk has had a string of jobs in the defense sector. He became the State Minister for Defense, after which he headed Ukraine’s security service (SBU) and was then briefly the special presidential representative in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. He then served as Vice Prime Minister under former President Leonid Kuchma.

In 1997, Marchuk led the delegation which prepared the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. At present, Ukraine is trying to get out of the 1997 agreement.

Marchuk was the National Security and Defense Council Secretary before taking on the Defense Minister role in 2003, where he was responsible for settling the conflict with Russia over Tuzla island.

Under Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency, Marchuk worked as a freelance advisor. This is where his focus changed from relations with Russia, to relations with NATO and the EU. In 2014, when the SBU was headed by Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, Marchuk coordinated international security cooperation between Ukraine and NATO and the EU respectively.

Former Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ihor Smeshko (L), Deputy Head of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (M) and the newly appointed head of the Ukrainian delegation for Minsk negotiations Yevhen Marchuk talk during a conference in Kyiv on November 7, 2018. Photo credit: Mykhailo Markiv / UNIAN

In 2015, by invitation of Poroshenko, he was appointed to take part in the Minsk talks as part of the security subgroup. He rarely gives interviews, but he has revealed some interesting details about the Minsk process. For example, earlier this month he told journalists about an unofficial proposal to remove the Crimea issue from the table, in exchange for regaining control of Donbas.

Unlike many of his colleagues in politics who believe that the Minsk agreements have stagnated and no longer work, he believes that they are beneficial – not in terms of strategy, but tactics. In an interview with Hromadske, Marchuk stated that the agreements have helped them remove heavy weapons and small-calibre weapons from the conflict area and carry out some demining operations on the contact line, where there are power plants, water pipelines, gas pipelines and bridges.  

However, Marchuk acknowledges the fact that the Minsk agreements regarding the war in Donbas are not adopted and only help come up with possible comprises.

“I want to say that this will not be decided in Minsk, but decided at Bankova (the location of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration building – ed.), in the Kremlin, in Washington and in Brussels. That’s where the fate of this war will be decided,” he stated.

Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma was Marchuk’s predecessor as Ukraine’s representative in Minsk. At the end of September 2018, Kuchma announced he was “reaching a critical age,” and retiring. Marchuk is only three years younger than Kuchma.

In a comment to Hromadske, Marchuk’s colleague Iryna Herashchenko, who is the  President's Humanitarian Envoy at the Minsk peace talks, stated that Poroshenko had had Marchuk’s candidacy in mind for a long time, and the decision to appoint him now was a tactical move.

“The President has strengthened Ukraine’s position in the Minsk group. Marchuk is very well acquainted with the Minsk negotiations. Marchuk will discuss a possible prisoner exchange in Minsk [on November 22]. Marchuk is taking on this burden at a very difficult time. There is a pause in the Minsk process because Russia has been blocking it. The president appointed him, it was determined a long time ago, but it was tactical to appoint him now,” she stated.

Another one of Marchuk’s colleagues, the representative for the political subgroup of the Minsk negotiations Oleksandr Motsyk has also commented on Marchuk’s appointment:

“Yevhen Kyrylovych [Marchuk] is the best choice for Ukraine. They know Marchuk in Ukraine, in the EU, in the U.S. and in Russia. I don’t know how the other negotiators in Minsk have reacted, but he is a heavyweight and authority among the Ukrainian delegates, as they know in Russia too,” Motsyk told Hromadske.

/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko