Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Can the Minsk process be “revitalized”?

Nicolas TENZER: “We must have two positions against Russia: not only to extend sanctions, but also to expand sanctions against Russia”
21 April, 2016 - 11:48
Nicolas TENZER

France, as well as Germany, was the initiator of Minsk 2 known as Complex of Measures to Observe the Minsk Agreements. However, now, more than a year since this document was signed by, among others, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Minsk, none of the 13 items of the agreements has been fulfilled. Moreover, the Russian side never stops accusing Ukraine of failing to observe its part of the Minsk Agreements, while it itself failed the fulfill the first main items – to cease fire, withdraw heavy weapons from the front line, and ensure OSCE monitoring.

The Day managed to interview Nicolas Tenzer, president of the Paris-based Centre for Study and Research for Political Decision, who attended the Kyiv Security Forum, about his vision of the Minks Agreements implementation and the attitude of right- and left-wing political forces to Russian aggression in the Donbas.


“My own opinion is that basically, Russia is not fulfilling the preconditions of Minsk Agreements since the beginning. In my own opinion, the Minsk Agreements are completely dead, because since the beginning, we are witnessing new forms of aggression in the Donbas. It is clear, there was a statement in USA that, actually, Russia refuse to have international control on the election, only of the separatist republics. Without international control, it means that Russians and all the guys backed by Russia will have the entire control on the elections’ process, which can be not fair at all. Then there is the problem of two million people displaced coming from this region. So, also the election cannot be fair. Of course, I understand that there are some people in Ukraine also reluctant to fulfill the Minsk Agreement, but basically, the aggression is coming from Russia, and this is, of course, not exactly the same case. Russia is supposed to be the guarantor of the Minsk Agreement – this is a pure fiction. It is a pure fiction, because in fact the separatists won’t have made war if Russia was not there to support them. So, I think, basically talking as the German minister that ‘both sides are not respecting the Minsk Agreement’ is not just correct, because I think that the offense to the Minsk Agreements is not exactly the same.”

What can be the way out of this crisis?

“I think that at the moment where Minsk Agreements took place, it was really what France and Germany were committed to – it was just to save lives. An in that period of time, since the US was unwilling to intervene – militarily, I mean – in the regions, neither did the EU, it was probably the only solution just to avoid bloodshed. But now the situation there is if there is no possibility of actions against Russian aggressions, Minsk Agreements cannot be implemented. And I think that since the beginning, all the people including Hollande and Merkel perfectly know that the Minsk Agreements are not a sustainable situation in the long run, because they are basically unfair. It was only a way for France and for Germany to gain time.

“I think we must have two positions against Russia: not only to extend sanctions, but also to expand sanctions against Russia. That’s all, there is no other way.”

Do you think this will be done, for it is known that some EU member states favor the lifting of sanctions?

“All the countries, the 28 countries of the EU, still support sanctions, including Hungary, and Slovakia. Of course, there are some interest groups, some people influenced by Russia think we must lift the sanctions. But of course, it’s a minority of the people. And I can see that Mr. Hollande, the French president, is not in favor of any lifting of the sanctions. The German Cabinet is probably more divided, as there are some people, especially in the SPD, trying to influence that we have to accommodate Russia, to negotiate with Russia. I think it’s just not reasonable position, because Russia is more aggressive than ever, not only in Ukraine, but also in Syria, but also in Baltic States. And I think that the question whether we can lift sanctions – no! We can probably even strengthen the sanctions, not lift them.”

The French right-wingers have usually been supporting Ukraine, but now only the left-wingers, including President Hollande, are backing our country. Why is it so?

“I am really ashamed by some French politicians, not only people coming from the far-right, like Marine Le Pen, or from the radical left like Mr. Melenchon and left people from the Communist party, but also people coming from the Republicans, conservative party in France that are supporting and cozying up to Putin, like Mr. Sarkozy, the former French president, and like Mr. Francois Fillon, who is a sort of Putin’s devotee, good friend of Putin and a former prime minister, and that’s just shameful! Some MPs, like Mr. Mariani and others, are supporting Putin as well as the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad.

“If we are talking about the conservatives, the former prime minister Alain Juppe, it’s very interesting, because Alain Juppe actually could be nominee for the primary on the right side of the political specter. Juppe has very strong stances against Putin and Russia. And I think it’s good news. Even if we see people like Mr. Mariton, another candidate in the primary in France, Mr. Mariton is very conservative on gender issues, but he has a strong stance against Putin as well. And even Mr. Bruno Le Maire, who was a minister and is also candidate, they are not favoring Putin. So basically, the right, the conservative party in France is divided between pro-Putin guys, shamefully, and others who have a more realistic view of what Russia is not.”

Why is it occurring – for lack of knowledge about Ukraine or for some other reasons?

“First of all, there are some people who are basically anti-Americans, anti-EU. There are some people – I won’t give names – who are members of interest groups that have some personal interest in defending Putin’s Russia. Then you have some people, also in the right wing of the political specter, who are for, I will say, strongmen, the strong regimes. And so, I think that’s the real issue.”


What do you think Ukraine should do to make French politicians know better about what is going on in this country and about Ukrainian aspirations? We know that even President Chirac said talking to Bush Jr. that Ukraine is part of Russia.

“I don’t have any knowledge, any deep knowledge of the situation in Ukraine. People have no sense of what your politics is, and again, I think that some of the people are just fascinated by Russia, for I don’t know any reasons… And I think that we – I mean we, French people, and you, Ukrainians – we have really to disassociate from Putin and Russia. There are great people in Russia. I attended a conference with Lilia Shevtsova, she’s Russian. Yes, you have some people who took to the street demonstrating after Nemtsov’s assassination, and Nemtsov himself, and I know Ilya Yashin, probably know Nemtsov’s friends, and those people, they are Russian but they are against the Russian regime. I think in the long run, it will be great to have cooperation with Russia, but with the Putin’s regime it’s just impossible.”

But Putin has changed political culture in the country, changed the nation…

“Yes, exactly, there was some brainwashing, and I think this brainwashing, it creates people knowing nothing of what democracy, human rights means. And I think one of the major problems for Russia now, what I am advocating, is regime change. Regime change really matters, and we have to advocate it really clearly. And the French government should be really outspoken on this issue.”


What should both sides do to encourage French companies to invest in Ukraine?

“I came to Ukraine more than ten times before 2013, and I saw there were problems of the corruption, and they were decisive for the business. But I think there is a huge potential in the long run, and that we must help Ukraine.”

“We have strong expectations for the new government. And the real problem, you know, is that probably the country which is aggressed shall be even more, I would say, irreproachable than the aggressor.

“I am one of the supporters of Ukraine since the beginning; I am really faithful supporter to Maidan. Just see my Twitter account: I am advocating Ukraine’s case, probably not many French people doing as much as I did.

“But sometimes they see what happen in the Rada, you know, the people fighting and it creates very bad image, and so people in France say: ‘You are defending Ukraine’s guys, just see their corruption.’ It’s very difficult for people like me and for others to say: ‘Well, there is no problem with Ukraine,’ when there is a problem with Ukraine, and I think it is the problem of legitimacy, and the problem of image. What happened those days with resignation of Mr. Yatseniuk and Panama Papers that was a real awakening. And I think that people in charge must act more responsibly.”


You have long been visiting Ukraine and watching events in this country. So, are you more optimistic about our country’s European prospects, taking also into account the Dutch referendum in which the majority voted against the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement?

“I’m since a long time advocating Ukraine’s membership to EU. But I think that’s all a very long way for this, because with that state of corruption, of justice, of the infrastructures, etc. there must be a very strong commitment. But it’s also a good way, and I think that the EU has to send a very clear signal to Ukraine about your vocation to be a member, because it could also help Ukrainians to modernize themselves and to fight against their own evil. Also, I think it’s really part of the game. I am one in France, probably not part of the majority, advocating the enlargement of the EU, and not only to Ukraine, to Balkan states that are still not members of the EU, later maybe Turkey.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day