Ukraine parliamentary elections. A hope for peace and the life of the Minsk Protocol

Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, chief-editor at The Indicter Magazine.

Analyses in the West media devoted to comment the upcoming parliamentary election in Ukraine, fail to trace the origin of the “Donbass war” in the ethnic, anti-minority policies ensuing from Kiev after the coup engineered and supported by the U.S., Sweden, and other Western countries.

For instance, the declarations by Arseniy Yatsenyuk (headed the first government after the putsch, initiated in office 27 February 2014) referring to the Russian-ethnic population of Donbass as “subhuman”. Or the governmental threats of eradicating the Russian language which is the main one spoken by over 90 percent of the population in that region.  In my recall of events, that was a main “casus belli” for the uprising in the Donbass territories struggling for autonomy, but foremost fighting for what they might have perceived as their ethnic and cultural survival. It was the time when Nazi ideologies reemerged with much impetus among the political constellations of the epoch, and also within combatant forces, eventually forming battalions as part of the Ukraine armed forces.

[In photo at left, the original communique released at the Ukraine Embassy in Washington, with Yatsenyuk “subhumans” remarks].

In  spite that major military operations have notably diminished since 2015, clashes continue between forces of the government and those of the democratic republics of Donetsk, respectively Luhansk, that self-proclaimed their independence based in the referendums of May 2014.  Casualties figures, including scores of civilians, continue to grow intermittently and unabated. Only in Donetsk have nearly five thousand people been killed  between 2014-2019.

None of the 20 ceasefire which have been agreed by the parties have resulted perdurable, and the agreements reached at the Minsk Protocol have not been enforced.

In the context above, the new “language law” passed in the late periods of the former Poroshenko regime –and which forbids the use of the Russian language in all territories of Ukraine– could be seen as rather cementing one very reason why the conflict started in the first place.

The fact that the new elected president, Mr Volodymyr Zelensky, added to other signals amidst his declarations, is himself a Russian speaking Ukrainian, it has therefore introduced some hope that the “language law” would be discarded during his administration, or at least “modified” to an acceptable extent as to extinguish one main factor present in the protracted conflict.

Sputnik News Agency asked for my opinion on issues around the parliamentary election in Ukraine. Here below are the answers I provided, in full. Contents of the interview were published by Sputnik’s English Newswire in the pieces “PREVIEW – Snap Elections In Ukraine To Show If Zelenskyy’s Party Serves People Alone Or In Coalition” [1], and “Repeated Court Hearing Postponements For Vyshinsky Resemble Assange Case – NGO”, [2] both also re-posted in UrduPoint.

  1. Sputnik: What are your expectations from the parliamentary elections in Ukraine? How would it affect state and foreign policy in the country?

These elections have been called by President Volodymyr Zelensky to be held at an early date (21 July instead of 21 October) precisely in seeking a change in the decision-making lines at the parliament by means of getting a coalition supporting his policies. Polls indicate that Zelensky’s party Servant of the People would obtain 42 or 43 percent of the votes. [3] [4]

If Zelensky manages to change the status-quo mainly represented by the Poroshenko-led coalition at the parliament, indeed are changes to be expected in both state and foreign policies. These are closely associated issues in Ukraine.

One example would be the revision of the so-called “State language law” passed by the Ukrainian Rada in April and thereafter enforced by Poroshenko’s signature in May this year.  A rectification of that law not only would benefit the Ukrainian population in general terms (Russian is the language used at home by 43-46 % of the population of Ukraine), [5] but it would have direct repercussions with regard to the protracted conflict in Donbass, where Russian is the language of over 90 percent of the population. [6]

Ensuing, what President Zelensky could simply do in order to move forward the solution of the Donbass conflict, is to abide with the implementation of the Minsk agreements. As the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs –Rosemary DiCarlo– said at a recent meeting of the UN Security Council, “We hope that following the parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government, the recent encouraging statements would be followed by concrete actions”. [7]

These concrete actions shall foremost include the direct dialogue between the Kiev government and the representatives of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, both of these administrations have proclaimed their autonomy, supported by the referendums of May 2014.

  1. Sputnik: Do you expect the Normandy format meetings to finally take place after the elections are held? Given that Russian President Vladimir Putin named it one of the main conditions.

We have to distinguish between essential issues, namely those on which a final resolution of a geopolitical conflict depend on, and other by-the-side topics which can be used to either facilitate or obstruct the discussion of the central issues.

Against the backdrop of the Normandy format meetings there are several issues connected, partly fundamental issues raised by initiative of the Russian side on the situation of Donbass, and partly topics expressed by the Ukrainian authorities. As a central issue, we have the issue of the economic blockade on Donbass.

President Vladimir Putin clearly stated during his talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte,  “It is necessary to repeal the decree of the former President Poroshenko on this blockade.” [8] As such a blockade –imposed by Poroshenko on March this year– “contradicts” the Minsk agreements, it is actually negating the prospective of a solution to the conflict as a whole.

Among the essential items of the Minsk protocol of 2014 (signed in Belarus by representatives of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk) was the commitment of the signatories aimed “to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Donbass”, [9] together with “To adopt a program of economic recovery and reconstruction for the Donbass region” [10].  How would this be possible under a blunt economic blockade exercised by the Ukrainian authorities? Obviously, economic blockades are aimed to the destruction, not reconstructions of economies.

The present Kiev administration has for its part raised the topic of Ukrainians held in custody in Russia, namely the release of Ukrainian sailors. But as Ukraine also have pending decisions regarding persons they have detained, in my opinion these are matters that could be resolved in direct negotiations without adventuring the central outcome  of the Minsk agreements. These referred in the main to an immediate and stable ceasefire, [11] as well as to the decentralization of power that through and Ukrainian law would ensure “temporary order and self-governance in particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts” [12] .

In reference to a prospective expansion of the Normandy format, the recent meeting in Paris–attended by foreign policy advisers from Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia–  observers reported a certain change in the openness of the new Ukrainian representatives, but not enough as to “drastically narrow gap between stances”. [13] Whether the talks will in the future include delegations at a higher diplomatic level will depend on concrete commitments from the Ukrainian government, which at the same time –as reviewed above– would need a supportive political coalition at home, hopefully  after the parliamentary elections.

Although from a human-rights perspective all settlements on detainees exchange –as those reached at the Normandy format– are positive in itself,  the primary talks between the concerned parties should aim at finding the way of a the Minsk agreements’ enforcement.

  1. Sputnik: Regarding the long-term arrest of RIA Novosti Ukraine portal head Kirill Vyshinsky – could the elections change direction of his case?

The arrest of Kirill Vyshinsky has, in my opinion, nothing to do with what we know in Europe as a case administrated by a legal system of independent justice. It has instead been used by the Poroshenko administration more as a hostage-case, aimed to exercise pressure on Russia in bargains pursued by Ukraine around the unsolved situation in Donbass. Insofar the new government of Zelensky would gain the political instruments provided by a supportive coalition, this will give his administration with an unique possibility to help reestablish the nowadays damaged name of Ukraine’s legal institutions.

To start, the case of  Kirill Vyshinsky, kept arrested without trial by Ukraine, is in my opinion totally different to the case of detainees during the armed conflict in Donbass, or captured in the course of intelligence-gathering or military and paramilitary actions.

The allegations against the RIA Novosti Ukraine portal consist that he would be a supporter of the self-proclaimed Donbass republics’  cause. As no concrete criminal charges have been defined in the course of a trial, we would assume that his “support” would consist in the purely intellectual activity of writing, cabling or publishing materials which contradict the narrative of the former government in Donbass –particularly around actions of the so-called ATO (“antiterrorist operation”). Even if those reports would reproduce versions of the Donbass republics’ folks or leaders, still they are unmistakably protected by the freedom of expression and freedom of media principles. Let us review what the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifies:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” [14]

No trial has been set for the Kirill Vyshinsky case; at the contrary, trials announcements have been postpend one after the other. E.g., the announced trial of Kirill Vyshinsky has again been postponed, now to the 19 of July.

If the prosecutors would have any base for the case to be taken to court, Vyshinsky would have already been on trial. In this sense, that situation resembles very much the Assange case in Sweden. Also a political case where journalist fact-based reports have challenged the authorities’ narrative. And where because no legal grounds would exist to prosecute, the case has been postponed, investigations have been protracted on and on, and no trial has been set. The case is prolonged in time without any resolution, so the Swedish authorities apparently just need to wait until statute of limitations would made the case automatically dismissed. Ergo, while no justice has been done, the accusations  may remain unchallenged.

Swedish Doctors for Human Rights has called the United Nations Working Group for Arbitrary detentions  (UNGWAD) [15] to investigate the whereabouts in the arrest of  Kirill Vyshinsky by the Ukrainian authorities. He should be immediately released.


Notes, sources.

[1] “PREVIEW – Snap Elections In Ukraine To Show If Zelenskyy’s Party Serves People Alone Or In Coalition“, UrduPoint, Sputnik, 21 July 2019.

[2] “Repeated Court Hearing Postponements For Vyshinsky Resemble Assange Case – NGO“, UrduPoint, Sputnik, 17 July 2019.

[3] “Zelenskyy’s Party Retains Lead With 42% Ahead Of Ukraine’s Sunday Elections – Poll“. UrduPoint News  , 17 July 2019.

[4] “If Zelenskyy’s Serious about Reform, He’ll Ditch the Cronies “. Atlantic Council, 16 July 2019.

[5] A  public opinion poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (2004) concluded that the number of people using the Russian language at home is higher than the number  acknowledging in the census having Russian as their native language.  The survey indicated that   43 to 46 percent of the population of Ukraine used the Russian language at home.

[6] In Donetsk, 93 percent;  in Luhansk, 89 percent.

[7] “Briefing Security Council on Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General Expresses Concern over Language Law, Ceasefire Violations”., 16 July 2019.


[9] (item 8 of the Minsk protocol).

[10] (item 11 of the protocol).

[11] (item 3 of the protocol).

[12] (item 1 of the protocol).

[13] Normandy format restoration: Meeting of foreign policy advisers takes place in Paris. 112-international, 13 July 2019.

[14] United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Art 19.

[15] UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention