Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following the Normandy format talks on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference

February 13, 2016

Question: Could you comment on the talks you’ve just attended?

Sergey Lavrov: Today, the Normandy Four held a ministerial meeting. France was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Nicolas de Riviere, since the incoming head of French diplomacy is currently in Paris. He’ll be arriving in Munich only in the evening to take part in a meeting on Libya.

As for today’s brief meeting of the Normandy Four, we agreed to hold a full-fledged meeting in due time to go through all the aspects of the Minsk Agreements and understand the reasons why some of them are not being implemented. During today’s meeting, participants noted the need to influence both Kiev and Donbass for making sure that the ceasefire arrangements are strictly observed. Violations are still being reported on both sides. Some breaches are mostly attributable to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, for example, in terms of the number of weapons absent from warehouses or shelling of residential areas. At the same time, the OSCE reported violations by Donbass forces in a number of other areas. The main thing is that no one questions the ceasefire, the agreement to withdraw heavy weapons or the need to fully implement the agreements. We confirmed today that the OSCE mission has the necessary powers to enforce them.

During today’s meeting, we highlighted a long-standing issue that has yet to be resolved. You may remember that the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination of issues related to the ceasefire regime and monitoring violations was established. This centre was created at the request of Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko. This led Russia to send dozens of Russian officers to the conflict area where they were to work with the Ukrainian military. However, the centre should also include representatives of Lugansk and Donetsk self-proclaimed republics in order to be adequate to its task. Today, we have brought to the attention of our colleague Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin that the current situation is absolutely unacceptable. Kiev doesn’t let these representatives join this process, hoping that the Russian military will somehow convey signals from this joint centre to Donbass. This stance is totally counterproductive and inspired by ideological considerations whereby Kiev does not regard the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics as partners. However, the Donbass representatives, i.e. of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, are the ones who signed the Minsk Agreements that were approved by the UN Security Council. For this reason, these structures are obviously legitimate in their capacity of parties to the conflict. We focused the attention of our German and French partners (as we did in our conversation with the US) that this has to come to an end. This kind of childish behaviour should give way to serious work, if we really want to understand who should take additional steps to enforce the ceasefire and transfer heavy weapons to storage following their withdrawal from the frontline, and how to do it.

We paid special attention to political issues. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke on this issue at length during his speech at the Munich Security Conference. These issues remain unchanged: the agreements reached in Minsk and the sequence of steps reviewed by the Normandy Four leaders in every detail on October 2 leave no place for any ambiguous interpretation. Constitutional reform is indispensable for Donbass to achieve a permanent status, and the law to this effect should be linked to the constitution – and not just for three years, as is now the case, but on a permanent basis. This is closely related to the agreed amnesty without which elections cannot take place in due form, as well as the agreement on how these elections will be held. Kiev has been consistent in its efforts to dodge this issue. We stressed that the OSCE representative on the working group on political issues, Pierre Morel, has put forward compromises several times and Donbass was ready to accept them, but Kiev refused to do so. Today, Russia called for seriously examining these proposals ahead of the next full-fledged ministerial meeting of the Normandy Four.

We also discussed the economic situation, including the permanent blockade, the fact that many issues remain unresolved despite promises to achieve progress, bank services, and many other things.

Today, we didn’t have much time, but were able just to outline our perspectives on the issues that I’ve just mentioned. I hope that in a few weeks’ time we will be able to have a detailed discussion on how to improve the situation in all these areas, when we meet not on the sidelines of a forum, but specifically to discuss all these issues in every detail.