The Ukrainian representatives in the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group submitted a list of 200 people to be exchanged with the opposing side. As the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky seeks disengagement of the conflict, violence in Donbas continues.
The exchange has already been discussed last week by Ukrainian and Russian delegates during the Normandy summit agreement in December 2019. According to Zelensky’s interview with the Turkish channel TRT, some of the 200 identified detainees might not be alive anymore, while others have been tortured. Nevertheless, the president voiced his faith in ending the conflict through diplomatic means.
This step is in line with Zelensky’s Donbas strategy: ending the hostilities, the release of all Ukrainian prisoners, and seeking peace even for the price of a compromise. As a part of this approach, he also tries to avoid calling Russia an aggressor. This contrasts with the strategy of Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko, who prioritized the security issues and took a less compromising stance towards Russia.
The new course of action on Kyiv’s part may prove helpful for ending the hostilities. Firstly, it might stop the opinion shift among several European countries, who began accusing Ukraine of the ongoing violence. Secondly, it can help to restore the trust of the population in Donbas, as well as the rest of Ukrainians, in the government without which reintegration of the lost regions cannot succeed.
Despite promising not to “trade territories and people”, and restarting discussion about now internationally largely ignored issues of Crimea and Crimean Tatars, Zelensky is sure to expect domestic opposition, as his critics see this approach as a sign of capitulation. Admittedly, should Zelensky’s plan of ending the war succeed, Ukraine may be forced to tolerate the enduring influence of the Kremlin over Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
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Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Martin Fornůsek
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