Ukraine Update: Renewal of sanctions, “progress”, and one-sided implementation of Minsk II Agreement (with full text in English)

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

Will Rogers

It is quite amazing how the ceasefire called for in the Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 seems to start to hold just before the EU has to vote again to uphold and extend the sanctions against Russia, which were adopted by the EU following the Russian invasion and “annexation” of the Crimea in February and March 2014, and the Russian invasion of the Donbas or eastern Ukraine beginning in April 2014.

Vladimir Putin’s goal appears to be as clear as his ongong violations of the Minsk II agreement’s terms: to block the extension of sanctions.

If he succeeds, he will have won a great victory over the Europeans, whose policies like those of the U.S. were dictated by pacifists and appeasers at least up until the adoption of Stage 3 sanctions against Russia on September 5, 2015. They came into force on Septemer 12, 2014.

Now if he can show “progress” toward implementing the Minsk II provisions, Putin and the pacifists and appeasers within the EU can push for an easing of sanctions.

Because all 28 members of the EU must vote affirmatively for the extension of sanctions, Putin needs only one vote to block their renewal.

So the push is on to show “progress”, with both the EU and the U.S. exerting pressure on Kiev to adopt constitutional amendments that would enshrine the special status of the Donetzk and Luhansk provinces controlled by so-called “separatists” in the Ukrainian constitution.

And the ceasefire seems to be taking hold.

If these moves lead to a blocking of sanctions, Putin will have achieved a great victory. Even if they don’t, the pattern of Ukrainian compliance with Minsk II in the face of constant violations of not only the ceasefire but other key provisions of Minsk II by the “separatists” puppets of Vladimir Putin and by Russia itself will continue.

Does anyone recall that all foreign fighters are to be withdrawn from the Donbas by December 31, 2015 under the terms of Minsk II?

Has or will there be any “progress” on that front?

See “Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian) February 13, 2014 (updated and revised).

The Russian Interfax news agency translation into English of the full text is reproduced at the end of this article.

Does anyone remember or care about the fact that Russia seized the Crimea by military force in February 2014, and continues to occupy what is sovereign territory of the Ukraine, under international law, by military force?

For the moment, all observers and decision-makers need to keep their eye on the ball and the big game in the Ukraine: the extension of all sanctions against Russia, including in particular third stage or Stage 3 sanctions.

Could anyone imagine, for an instant, that full implementation of the Minsk II Agreement would become remotely manageable or possible without them?

On the pressures by the EU and the U.S. on Kiev to adopt constitutional amendments giving special autonomous status to the Donbas, see

Claudia von Salzen (Kommentar),”DER KONFLIKT IN DER UKRAINE: Zerreißprobe in Kiew; Im Ukraine-Konflikt halten die Europäer an einem gescheiterten Abkommen fest. Das Land wird zur Verfassungsänderung gedrängt, während Russland keine Zugeständnisse macht,” Die Zeit, 1. September 2015 (Erschienen im Tagesspiegel am 1. September 2015 11:20 Uhr).

The Trenchant Observer


Full text in English of Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015

Translation provided by Russian Interfax news agency, as published in the International Business Times, February 12, 2015.

“1. An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and its strict implementation starting at 0000 (Kiev time) on 15 February 2015.

2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides at equal distances in order to create a security zone to be at least 50-km-wide from each other for 100mm or bigger calibre artillery systems, a 70-km-wide security zone for MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems], and a 140-km-wide security zone for Tornado-S, Uragan and Smerch MLRS and Tochka-U tactical missile systems:

– For the Ukrainian troops: from the factual contact line;

– For the armed formations of certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions: from the contact line according to the Minsk memorandum of 19 September 2014.

The withdrawal of the abovementioned heavy weapons shall begin no later than on the second day after the ceasefire and shall end within 14 days.

The OSCE will facilitate this process with the support of the Tripartite Contact Group.

3. Ensure effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the OSCE from the first day of the withdrawal, with the use of all necessary technical means, including satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, radar systems and so on.

4. On the first day following the withdrawal, to start the dialogue on the modalities of holding local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and Ukraine’s law “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” as well as on a future regime of these districts on the basis of this law.

Immediately, no later than in 30 days since the date of the signing of the given document, to adopt a Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] resolution to specify the territory to which the special regime applies in accordance with the law of Ukraine “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” on the basis of the line set by the Minsk memorandum of 19 September 2014.

5. Ensure pardon and amnesty by putting into force a law that would ban persecution and punishment of individuals in connection with the events that took place in some areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

6. Ensure the release and exchange of all the hostages and illegally held individuals on the basis of the “all for all” principle. This process should be completed no later then on the fifth day after the withdrawal.

7. Ensure safe access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid among those who need it on the basis of an international mechanism.

8. Definition of the modalities of a complete restoration of socio-economic ties, including social transfers, such as pension payments or other payments (receipts and income, paying the utility bills on time and renewing taxation within the framework of Ukraine’s legal field).

To meet these objectives, Ukraine will restore control over the segment of its banking system in the areas affected by the conflict, and an international mechanism to facilitate these transfers may be set up.

9. Restoration of full control over the state border in the whole zone of the conflict on the part of the Ukrainian government, which should begin on the first day after local elections and finish after an all-inclusive political settlement (local elections in separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the basis of Ukraine’s law, and constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, providing the implementation of clause 11 – in consultations and with the agreement of representatives of separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the framework of the Tripartite Contact Group.

10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military hardware and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory under the OSCE’s supervision. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

11. Realization of constitutional reform in Ukraine, with the new constitution to enter into force by the end of 2015, and assuming as a key element the decentralization (taking into account the peculiarities of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as agreed with representatives of these districts), and the enactment of permanent legislation on the special status of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in accordance with the measures specified in the footnotes, until the end of 2015 (see footnotes)

12. Issues related to local elections shall be discussed and agreed with representatives of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions within the framework of the Tripartite Contact Group on the basis of the Ukrainian law “On the temporary procedure for local self-government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions”. Elections shall be held in compliance with the relevant OSCE standards and monitored by the OSCE ODIHR [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights].

13. Intensification of the activities of the Tripartite Contact Group, including by means of establishing working groups to fulfil the respective aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Tripartite Contact Group.


Such measures in accordance with the law “On the special procedure of local self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” include the following:

– Freedom from punishment, persecution and discrimination for individuals connected to the events that took place in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– Right to self-determination of language;

– Participation of local governing bodies in the appointment of heads of prosecution bodies and courts in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The state will provide support to the socio-economic development of certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– Assistance from the central executive bodies with cross-border cooperation between certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and regions of the Russian Federation;

– Creation of people’s police detachments by the decision of local councils with the aim of maintaining social order in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions;

– The powers of local council deputies and public servants elected during pre-term elections called by the Ukrainian Supreme Council via this law cannot be prematurely terminated.

This document has been signed by the participants in the Tripartite Contact Group:

[OSCE] Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

Second President of Ukraine L. [Leonid] Kuchma

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine M. [Mikhail] Zurabov

A. [Aleksandr or Oleksandr] Zakharchenko

I. [Igor or Ihor] Plotnitskiy [Plotnytskyy]”

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.