The conflict in Donbas may well be frozen for decades, similarly to what happened to the conflict in Transdniestria, Martin Sajdik, former permanent representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) for settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, said in an interview published in the Monday issue of Kommersant.
"I can't rule this out," Sajdik said when asked how likely it is that the conflict in Donbas could be frozen similarly to Transdniestria's status and that the negotiations on settling it could take decades.
"This is already the case in some aspects," Sajdik said. "Transdniestria is taking advantage of being regarded as part of Moldova. And all benefits of trade with the EU also apply to Transdniestria," he said.
"And as concerns our conflict, there are people taking advantage of Ukraine's visa free travel agreement with the EU. They have retained their Ukrainian passports exactly for that reason. In this regard, there is some similarity with Transdniestria already now. People understand very well where they can earn more – in the EU or in Russia," Sajdik said.
"However, the Transdniestrovization of Donbas wouldn't benefit either Ukraine or Russia," Sajdik, who represented the OSCE in the TCG for four and a half years and who left this position at the end of 2019, said.
"Here we have a much larger territory and a much larger population, and the upkeep of this territory costs a lot of money already now. But a lot of money will also have to be invested there one day to restore its industry, coalmines. Is Russia prepared for that?" he said.
Contrary to Russia's assertion, it is a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the Minsk Agreements must be implemented not step by step but as a package, he said.
"If you look at the Minsk Agreements and the way they are signed in the original, you'll see the signatures of [former head of the OSCE mission to the contact group] Heidi Tagliavini, [former Ukrainian President] Leonid Kuchma and [former Russian Ambassador to Ukraine] Mikhail Zurabov. Then there is a gap and then you see Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky [former heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky]. Why are Ukraine and Russia above? Are they not parties to the conflict? This is precisely why they are above. And there is one mediator, the OSCE," Sajdik said.
"The Minsk Agreements are a package, and if they are implemented step by step, a quiet regime must be established and disengagement carried out first," he said.
"If you talk about the sequence, political matters cannot be discussed before security matters are resolved. You would have to start with the first clause and implement them one by one," Sajdik said.
Kyiv is refusing to codify Donbas's special status in the Ukrainian constitution because it lacks answers to other questions, Sajdik said.
"As for special status: in line with the Steinmeier formula, it shall take effect permanently following elections. If you read the Minsk Agreements, they say that the restoration of border control by Ukraine shall start the next day. But how will this happen? Who adopts legislation while it's unclear what happens the next day? This must be done in one package," he said.
"Therefore, read the so-called Sajdik plan. We wrote in our proposals above all that this must be a package in which all decisions are made not step by step but as a whole. And, while this might sound strange, we proposed that these agreements should be ratified, because one of the problems is that they are not ratified," he said.
"This should be done through the Normandy format," he said.