On December 17, Heads of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik made a joint statement outlining the positions of Donetsk and Lugansk on the recent meeting of the Normandy Four. According to a correspondent of the Official Website of the Donetsk People’s Republic, in their statement the parties once again confirmed that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements, strongly criticized the actions of the Ukrainian leadership and showed their commitment to the policy of integration with the Russian Federation.

“The summit showed us what we had already seen — nothing has changed for the people of Donbass since the new government in Kiev came to power. Poroshenko’s policy, which is based on the total indifference to the fates of millions of residents and aimed at “reintegrating” only the territories, is essentially carried on by Zelensky and his team.

The Ukrainian leadership, despite the unanimous positions of Russia, France and Germany on the need for a ceasefire, openly admit that they “do not yet know how to make it happen”. This shows that Zelensky lacks the necessary competence and authority and proves the instability of the political situation in Ukraine.

Zelensky does not actually control the military forces. Moreover, the radical groups have a great influence over the Ukrainian government. That is why Avakov, who is known for his radical sentiments and support to the ultra-right groups, was present at the meeting in Paris to reassure the nationalists and pretend that the “betrayal” would not pass. Zelensky is unable to make decisions independently and is actually controlled by the nationalists whom Avakov orchestrates.

Kiev did not want to ensure the disengagement along the entire line of contact, although this was the decision previously agreed upon by the advisors to the Normandy Four. The lives and health of citizens living by the line of contact, as well as the safety of the critical infrastructure, are still endangered by attacks from the Ukrainian militants.

In the territory they control, the Ukrainian government continue terrorizing the residents of Donbass who disagree with the regime, and illegally detain thousands of people in legal and secret prisons of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), but Western countries, especially Germany and France, have not made an appropriate judgment on that.

Kiev does not wish to ensure a clean exchange based on the formula “all identified for all identified” and deliberately delays the process. Their refusal from the full legal clearance of persons subject to the exchange shows the intention to resume their criminal prosecution after the exchange, as was the case of the militiamen previously exchanged.

Kiev’s attempts to evade the strict and legal entrenchment of the amnesty and the desire to break the order established by the Complex of Measures by taking control of the borders before the election and the amnesty show the desire to commit a second Srebrenica massacre in Donbass, which we will never let happen.

We have faced new ways of sabotaging the Minsk Agreements. The Ukrainian leadership, in an effort to evade their commitments, have come down to blatant fraud. I am talking now about the situation concerning the tampering with the text of the communique following the meeting in Paris in Ukrainian and English, published on the website of Ukraine’s Presidential Office. After we drew their attention to the mistakes and called on Kiev to post the official version, they did that, but with distortions. Instead of taking the official English version of the text from the website of the Élysée Palace, Ukrainian officials posted the version that they inaccurately translated themselves from Ukrainian into English.

Recently, we have seen a huge number of media statements from Zelensky and his entourage, in which they are trying to reshape their commitments under the Minsk Agreements. Kiev is working particularly hard to alter the meaning of the political items in the Complex of Measures, which are the foundation of the entire peacebuilding process. Nevertheless, all those attempts are pointless.

The official version of the final communique absolutely clearly and unambiguously spells out that the Ukrainian president accepts his commitment to agree with us on all legal aspects of the special status, including both amendments to the law on the special status and amendments to the constitution to make the special status of Donbass permanent, laws and by-laws stemming from the special status and aimed at its implementation. All this must necessarily be agreed directly with us, taking into account the peculiarities of the historical and economic development of Donbass.

Moreover, I emphasize that all the matters related to the future of Donbass must be agreed with us, those who have stayed in their land, who are chosen by the people for the protection and development of our Republic. The other party to the conflict does not choose the negotiators, so Kiev’s statements that they are ready to negotiate directly only with those people from Donbass who have moved to Ukraine-controlled territory are absurd and nonsensical. This raises a fair question, however, what can the president of Ukraine talk about with the people who escaped the bullets and explosions sent by his own army? And who actually are those people? Oligarchs who left their companies with thousands of workers to the mercy of fate? You need to talk with the residents who have been living in the blockade for six years now, losing loved ones for six years, whose property has been destroyed by Ukrainian missiles.

Against the background of the Ukrainian government’s rhetoric, who care exclusively about the territories of Donbass, but in no way about its residents, we took with great gratitude and appreciation Vladimir Putin’s statements at the Normandy Four’s meeting in Paris. He was the only one of the four leaders of the Minsk Agreements’ guarantor countries to raise the questions about improving the living conditions of our citizens, especially those living by the line of contact. Thanks to the firm position of the Russian leader, the final communique consolidates such crucial decisions as the prisoner exchange based on the formula “all identified for all identified”, the ascertainment of other three pilot areas for the withdrawal of forces and equipment, and the beginning of the work on opening new checkpoints across the line of contact.

After the Normandy Four’s meeting, we once again saw who our friend is and who is our enemy. And we will never leave the path the people of Donbass chose virtually unanimously in 2014 during the referendum. We want to follow the same way as Russia, and we will be gradually implementing this aspiration regardless of Kiev’s opinion on this matter.

Moreover, I want to draw particular attention once again to the fact that the integration processes in no way contradict the Minsk Agreements, on the contrary, the Complex of Measures provides for the possibility of developing transboundary cooperation. Therefore, economic, socio-cultural, scientific, educational, sports, domestic and other cooperation with the Russian Federation fully corresponds to the concept of the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

In conclusion, I should like to announce one of the key points of the position of the Donetsk People’s Republic: the integration with Russia has already begun and we will not stop it under any circumstances.

I once again draw attention to another crucial point: the Normandy format is the mechanism of control over the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We respect and implement the decisions taken as part of this format. However, the main process of settling the conflict takes place exactly in the Minsk venue, because only there we have the opportunity for a direct dialogue between Donbass and Kiev. And despite all the attempts of the Ukrainian government to evade this direct dialogue, we continue to insist that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements, they strictly spell out the mechanism for the peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Kiev now has a choice to make — either to proceed to direct coordination with us of all of peace restoration issues within the framework of the Package of Measures, or to explicitly recognize its inability to implement international commitments under the Minsk Agreements. But should the second option be chosen, the Ukrainian authorities will be held fully accountable for the disruption of the Minsk process to the guarantor countries and the entire global community represented by the UN,” Denis Pushilin said.

Head of the LPR Leonid Pasechnik spoke on behalf of the Lugansk People’s Republic.

“I want to say that there is complete convergence between our positions. We also advocate the need to comply with the Minsk Agreements, decisions made in the Normandy Format and the mandatory coordination of all the peace restoration aspects with representatives of both Republics. At the same time, we believe that integration with the Russian Federation does not contradict the Minsk Agreements at all, and we will be implementing it without any regard to whether or not Zelensky and his Western partners are agreeable to this.

The referendum of 2014, which took place throughout the former Donetsk and Lugansk regions, clearly indicates Donbass residents’ repudiation of the Maidan coup and the Neo-Banderist regime policy maintained by Zelensky. The West does not want to remember this. The referendum was held without any pressure from outside. The people self-organized and freed themselves from the self-proclaimed Kiev regime. The Law On the State Border adopted in the DPR secures the will of the residents of the former Donetsk region. In the near future, the same law will enter into force in our Republic.

After Kiev launched the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” against us, our people faced real persecution, a civil war. Thousands of lives have been cut short, tens of thousands have lost relatives, roof over their heads and means of survival. Moreover, Kiev has deprived us of the right to life, health, secure environment, freedom of speech, freedom of association and political preference.

We have not accepted and will never accept the cultural and linguistic genocide arranged by the Poroshenko regime and continued by the Zelensky regime. In 2014, unarmed residents of Donetsk and Lugansk stood in front of the tanks and asked not to shoot, but only to allow them to speak Russian and take account of the territories’ historical and cultural peculiarities; and as a response we received a civil war. Wolves in western sheep’s clothing dispatched an army to Donbass in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and international rights.

Under these conditions, the Kiev regime is attempting to present the people of Donbass to the global community as “separatists, terrorists, rag-tag and criminals”, and the elected authorities of the Republics — as “Russian puppets.” This is not the case. Hundreds of thousands of residents of Donbass — miners, steelworkers, military personnel, police officers, teachers, doctors — have proved by their civic stance and blood that they do not accept Ukraine in the “Banderist packing.”

We had no choice but to respond to this war accordingly and defend our land and our citizens. At the same time, out response was so strong that in a few months the Ukrainian army was forced to retreat, defeated in pockets near Ilovaisk, Debaltsevo and Izvarino. However, in order to prevent the recurrence of hostilities and save lives, the Republics decided to sign the Minsk Agreements, the main object of which is to establish peace in Donbass.

And now, five years after these agreements were signed, we can see that the change of power in Kiev has not affected the situation in either way: the Ukrainian authorities, whether under the rule of Poroshenko or under the rule of Zelensky, are bending every effort to evade their obligations. The number of attacks has even increased under the new Ukrainian administration, not to mention the absence of any progress in other areas of conflict resolution.

The Normandy Format meeting, which took place on December 9, demonstrated that nothing has changed for the people of Donbass: Poroshenko’s policy has been maintained.

The attempt to jam through the Rada the decentralization law without the Republics’ consent is a direct violation of the Minsk Agreements, which makes this regulatory legal act insignificant not only for us, but for all the Normandy Format participants as well. The willing to replace in the negotiations the residents of the AFU-shattered Republics by the dependent and managed former Donbass residents, who have fled their native land and are now holing up in Kiev, is a method of market dealers of the 90s, whom Zelensky and his team currently resemble. These people have no effect on the Republics, make no decisions and, accordingly, will not bring any conflict settlement. We note that the war cannot come to its end in the absence of direct negotiations with representatives of the DPR and LPR population.

This is must be done to directly agree upon all the modalities of the further coexistence of the Republics and the State of Ukraine.

I urge the leaders of the Western countries-guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, the UN Security Council and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to help ensure that not the Ukrainian side alone, but we could be heard as well so that our point of view was also presented in the international arena. This is the necessary rule without which conditions for constructive negotiations cannot be created.

Along with that, every possible influence must be exerted on Ukraine to restore the political, civil, social and economic rights of Donbass residents.

I emphasize once again that world history offered many precedents for resolving the conflict, which indicate the need for a direct dialogue, special conditions for coexistence, amnesty and real self-government. In this regard, Donbass is not the first and, certainly, not the last case. Therefore, we do not propose Kiev to invent anything new — just implement the commitments taken by Poroshenko and reaffirmed by Zelensky.

For our part, we confirm the absence of alternative to the Minsk Agreements and our commitment to their implementation in the precise order determined by the Package of Measures,” Leonid Pasechnik said.