Russia could end the conflict in Donbas, but reintegration raises concerns

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Russia could end the conflict in Donbas, but reintegration raises concerns

According to Andriy Yermak, Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Ukraine is committed to upholding the ceasefire agreements signed by the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) on July 22, 2020 and prevent further loss of life in the 7-year conflict. The leaders of the TCG met over a video conference on March 18 to address the ongoing ceasefire violations. According to Yermak, members of the TCG security subgroup confirmed a readiness to return to a full-fledged ceasefire. However, Russia refused to participate in this TCG meeting (Kyiv Post, March 25).

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba believes that Russia ultimately holds the power to end the war in Donbas by pulling their troops out of the occupied territories in the region. In an interview for the Slovak newspaper ‘Tyžden,’ Kuleba stated that all possible solutions for ending the conflict have been discussed numerous times and are ready to be implemented, but Russian compliance is the only missing piece. Kuleba also gave his views on the ceasefire agreements made by the TCG, stating that they are ineffective due to Russia’s failure to uphold the agreements (UNIAN, March 24).

Even if Russia were to cooperate in upholding the ceasefire agreements and withdrawing its forces from Donbas, the prospect of reintegration raises many concerns. The Ukrainian government faces many challenges in its policy towards the ORDLO (the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts), such as a lack of reliable statistics that reflect the current situation in the region. For one thing, the total number of people residing in the occupied territories of Donbas is uncertain, and there are still large number of armed separatists that are disloyal to Ukraine residing in the region. Furthermore, there are also citizens in these territories who may harbor resentment towards the Ukrainian government for the deaths of their relatives, or feel disconnected from Ukraine due to a feeling of isolation or a loss of national identity (Euromaidan Press, March 23).