The roundtable “International Transitional Administrations: Experience, Opportunities, and Risks for Ukraine” was held in Kyiv recently with the participation of Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ambassador shared his experience of implementing the transitional period regime while re-establishing relations between the conflicting parties. Other politicians, diplomats, and experts took part in the dialog as well.
Ambassador Petritsch shared his experience in resolving the military conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In particular, he stated: “Such conflicts affect the unity of the state, its economy, the social situation there, and eventually the security of its people. There are, therefore, some parallels between different conflicts, and therefore general conclusions can be drawn for their resolution. Of course, we must preserve the territorial integrity of the country, but at the same time it is equally important to stop people being killed.”
On the other hand, the question remains open: is it possible to apply the methods used when resolving one conflict to another? While there was an obvious ethnic and even religious component to it in the former Yugoslavia, the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine has a completely different mechanics. Firstly, the Russian Federation has openly occupied parts of the territory of Ukraine (Crimea and parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions). Secondly, the Russian Federation disguises its aggression as an alleged civil conflict in Ukraine. Thirdly, the international partners of Ukraine clearly did not apply all possible levers of pressure on the Russian Federation strongly enough at the most important moment. In the end, the question arises: will not the so-called transitional administrations, if actually introduced in the occupied territories, become the pretext for lifting sanctions currently imposed on the Russian Federation? The occupied territories of eastern Ukraine are filled not only with Russian military equipment, but also with a ramified network of Russian security services’ agents. The introduction of transitional international administrations in these lands may face obstacles to their decisions at the level of the security services. That is, the formal aspects of this or that decision will be respected, while in fact, the peacekeeping mission will not have a real impact on the situation. In such circumstances, even elections that are to be organized and conducted by international organizations (transitional administrations) may become just an instrument for legalizing illegal entities.
“The information that Mr. Ambassador offered may seem at first glance to be only a virtual prospect to us,” said representative of Ukraine in the security subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group Yevhen Marchuk. “But we can see from international practice that when the host state is ready, has developed all the mechanisms and procedures and reached agreement with all the parties, then the so-called ‘transition period’ can be implemented much faster and more efficiently. Despite the fact that now it seems to us that such a transition period is a distant prospect for us, preparations for this process should be carried out already. Today, we, meaning Ukraine and the Russian Federation, do not even have a common position on the mandate of a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine. After all, transitional administrations are a UN instrument. We have very sharp contradictions with the Russian Federation in this area. Moreover, the Russian Federation wields the veto right in the UN Security Council, and therefore it can block the introduction of transitional administrations as well. Nevertheless, the parties are working within some non-governmental structures, in which both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are represented. In my opinion, there is a signal that negotiation approaches are moving to a new level. Take the Minsk talks, for instance. Earlier, the Russian Federation competently and ‘elegantly’ blocked almost every proposal. Now the negotiation process is beginning to turn to discussing constructive issues.”
Separately, Marchuk noted: “I must note that when the press speaks of a truce, it is not a truce at all. It is a ceasefire.”
Thus, taking into account the numbers of Russian troops, armaments, and the presence of security services, it is too early to talk about the possibility of ending the war. In addition, it should be emphasized that the media and politicians have been confused about definitions from the very beginning of the war, for example, calling the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine “a conflict in the east of Ukraine” or other similar formulas that fit well into a Russia-promoted myth alleging that it is a domestic (civil) conflict. Such erroneous definitions mislead international bodies, who seem to understand that the Russian Federation is waging a war on Ukraine, but avoid clear statements on the issue.
It is worth noting that even though Ambassador Petritsch described Russia as an “elephant” who can put pressure on Ukraine at any time, he still never uttered the word “Russia.” This cautiousness may be explained by the fact that this experienced diplomat specializes in resolving conflicts rather than fomenting them. On the other hand, in order to talk about the causes of conflicts and ending them, one must understand the objectives pursued by people who start them. What was the objective pursued by the Kremlin during the occupation of Crimea and eastern parts of Ukraine? It should be noted that Vladimir Putin was fully aware that the international community would try to at least notionally ‘punish’ him for such actions. Obviously, the Kremlin was not afraid of such ‘punishments.’ And now, while preserving its influence in the East European space, Moscow can use the UN peacekeeping instruments in order to finally emerge from the isolation.
“Unlike the Balkan events, we have an international armed conflict here,” chairman of the Power of Law NGO Andrii SENCHENKO said at the roundtable. “Still, there is no question that four years of war will have inevitably led to the fact that such a conflict acquires some features of a domestic one as well. The country is divided by the frontline. Those children who at the beginning of the war were 14 have already grown into adults. They already have the right to vote and are liable to be drafted by the military. At the same time, their consciousness was formed in a quite aggressive anti-Ukrainian environment.”