"This is a trap" Ukraine warns Trump over possible secret Donbas deal with Putin

Ruins of Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport, December 24, 2014.
By Sergei Kuznetsov in Kyiv July 20, 2018

Former Ukrainian premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk believes that a proposal reportedly made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to his US counterpart Donald Trump to hold a referendum with the aim of helping resolve the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is "a trap".

"President Putin’s proposals are always deceptive," the politician wrote on his official Facebook page on July 20. "Our partners must not fall victim to any "new" and "interesting" ideas that Russia offered at the Helsinki meeting. These ideas just reflect the old and carnal nature of the aggressor, who gets satisfaction out of making a mockery of the free world."

On July 19, Bloomberg reported citing unnamed Russian diplomats that Putin had suggested a referendum in the regions of Donbas and Luhansk that are still controlled by pro-Russian separatists. No further details were revealed by Bloomberg's sources.

According to Yatsenyuk, most of Putin’s proposals, made known to the public, would not lead to a solution even if they appear to do so. "This is a trap. Ukraine will not accept any secret plans on Donbas and Crimea," he added. "Ukraine has a political, moral and human right to demand that our Western partners firmly adhere to the civilised principles of international relations. One’s moral equality with the aggressor is the worst possible weapon of mass self-destruction."

Over the past two years, the Normandy format representatives (Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) failed to secure any significant progress during talks on settling the conflict, which erupted in 2014 as pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine broke away from Kyiv's central control. Around 11,000 servicemen, rebels and civilians have so far died.

In 2016, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France agreed in Berlin to draft a new road map for the implementation of the Minsk peace accords reached in the capital in 2015. The road map is intended to ensure the success of political, security and humanitarian measures in the Donbas region.

The Kremlin rejects any security preconditions and wants the polls to go ahead in the Donbas at the earliest date. The position was strengthened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments at the Berlin summit that Ukraine should regain full control of the occupied border “only at the end of the process”, a position also indicated by France’s then president Francois Hollande a few days earlier.

However, the sides agreed that OSCE observers could move freely up to the border, Merkel added in widely reported comments.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in turn insisted that “all foreign troops” must be unconditionally pulled out from rebel-held areas before local elections, a reference to the Russian military, despite Moscow’s insistence that it has no forces in Ukraine.

Other measures sought include a more durable ceasefire, observance of the disengagement regime, the release of prisoners, and unrestricted access for OSCE mission staff to all areas, an issue that has constantly hampered efforts to monitor both sides’ commitment to demilitarisation in the conflict zone.

Ealier, Poroshenko said that Kyiv favours the deployment of a full-scale UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. However, the mission's purpose "should be not to perpetuate the Russian occupation and legalise the Russian military presence but ensure durable peace in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and fully restore our state's territorial integrity".

Kyiv also insists that the UN mission should comply with the guiding principles of UN peacekeeping operations, which a priori rule out the participation of an aggressor country or a party to the conflict in it, which mean that the Ukrainian leadership opposes including the Russians in the mission.