Minsk agreements

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The Minsk agreements were a series of international agreements which sought to end the Donbas war fought between armed Russian separatist groups and Armed Forces of Ukraine, with Russian regular forces playing a central part. The first, known as the Minsk Protocol, was drafted in 2014 by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, consisting of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with mediation by the leaders of France and Germany.

A map of the buffer zone established by the Minsk Protocol follow-up memorandum


  • The United States also condemns Russia’s decision to grant expedited Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living in the Russia-controlled Donbas. Through this highly provocative action, Russia is clearly intensifying its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Mr. President, Donbas is Ukraine, and the people there are Ukrainian—regardless of which language they prefer to speak. Conferring citizenship en masse to the citizens of another state undermines and violates the principle of sovereignty. Russia’s actions subvert the principles on which the Minsk agreements are based: that the Donbas is an integral part of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government must reestablish its control over this territory.
  • Mr. President, this council was convened today to discuss the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, a goal that we all share, despite Russia’s persistent violations. These agreements, which were negotiated in 2014 and 2015 and signed by Russia, remain the basis for the peace process to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This council’s primary responsibility – the very reason for its creation – is the preservation of peace and security. As we meet today, the most immediate threat to peace and security is Russia’s looming aggression against Ukraine.
  • The situation in Ukraine today is attributed to the rise of ultra-nationalist and Russophobe groups that compelled the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich to resign during the Euromaidan protests in February 2014. Protesters called for Yanukovich to follow policies favorable for integration with the EU and NATO even at the cost of harming Ukraine’s traditional ties with Russia. This same set of ultra nationalist and Russophobe political groups have been hampering the implementation of the Minsk agreement by successive Ukrainian governments.
  • The Minsk agreement was signed in the context of the outbreak of civil war in Ukraine following the post-Euromaidan government’s move to crush the protests opposing the pro-EU and pro-NATO policies that it had adopted. Ukrainian forces declared a war on the protesters following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The war lasted for months before the 13-point Minsk agreement was signed, and led to the death of over 14,000 people and displaced over 2.5 million, with nearly half of them seeking refuge in Russia.
  • As we know, peace did not ensue after Minsk. In spite of the agreements, the military operations conducted in eastern Ukraine continued with variable intensity. Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for their non-implementation.
    Why did the agreements fail? Now that nominal efforts are underway to discuss a possible peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, it’s important to understand the myriad ways in which the Minsk agreements were inadequate and improbable, so that lessons can be learned from its failures. Perhaps the biggest failure of all was context. As the saying goes, possession is nine-tenths of the law. Indeed, diplomacy can only go so far if one party maintains possession of a territory and the military force to hold it.
  • The Minsk II agreement in 2015 ended the worst fighting and set up a buffer zone around the breakaway republics, but a low-intensity civil war continued. An estimated 14,000 people have been killed since 2014. Congressman Ro Khanna and progressive members of Congress tried for several years to end U.S. military aid to the Azov Battalion. They finally did so in the FY2018 Defense Appropriation Bill, but Azov reportedly continued to receive U.S. arms and training despite the ban.
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