Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky admitted to a major German newspaper that he refused to implement the Minsk peace deal with Russia.
The Minsk accords were two agreements, negotiated in Belarus; signed by Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and overseen by Germany and France, in the so-called Normandy Format.
The accords aimed to stop the conflict in Ukraine that broke out following a violent US-backed coup in 2014, which set off a civil war between Kiev’s pro-Western, post-coup government and pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The first deal, known as Minsk I, was reached in 2014, but failed. This led to Minsk II in 2015. This agreement was ostensibly more stable, but Ukraine never truly implemented it.
In an interview with the German daily Der Spiegel, published on February 9, Zelensky made it clear that he intentionally chose to sabotage Minsk.
The Ukrainian leader complained that the Minsk agreements were an unacceptable “concession”.
Zelensky recalled telling French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “we cannot implement it”.
“Procrastination is perfectly fine in diplomacy”, Zelensky said, explaining that he only “jumped on the train” and pretended to support Minsk in order to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia – and give his country more time to prepare for war.
Merkel herself confirmed this in December 2022, in an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit.
The former German leader stated that the “2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to buy time for Ukraine. Ukraine used this time to become stronger”.
Former French President François Hollande subsequently responded stating, “Angela Merkel is right on this point”.
Minsk II stipulated that Ukraine had to reform its constitution, decentralize state authority, and provide autonomy for the Russian-speaking eastern provinces, with “special status” and “self-governance” for the regions Donetsk and Lugansk.
Kiev refused to do so, under both Ukrainian governments of President Petro Poroshenko, who signed the Minsk accords, and his successor Zelensky, who took office in 2019.
Points 11 and 12 of Minsk II mandated (emphasis added):
11. Implementation of constitutional reform in Ukraine, with the new constitution to come into effect by the end of 2015, the key element of which is decentralization (taking into account peculiarities of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, agreed with representatives of these districts), and also approval of permanent legislation on special status of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, in accordance with the measures spelt out in the footnotes, by the end of 2015.
12. Based on the Ukrainian law, “on the temporary order of self-governance in the particular districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts,” questions dealing with local elections will be discussed and agreed upon by representatives of the areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Elections will be held in accordance with the relevant OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR.
The Ukrainian government did not implement these measures. Zelensky has dispelled any doubt as to why: It was an intentional choice.
German Chancellor Merkel clarified what Ukraine chose to do instead: Pretend that it was going to implement Minsk II while using the time to stock up on Western weapons and train its military to prepare for war with Russia.