Pilot Demilitarization. Vadym Chernysh on Policies Regarding ORDLO Residents, Amnesty and Decision-making Centers
Pilot Demilitarization. Vadym Chernysh on Policies Regarding ORDLO Residents, Amnesty and Decision-making Centers
Minister for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons Vadym Chernysh told Focus about readiness for reintegration of Donbas, terms of demilitarization and cooperation with local communities.
In his speech at the session of the United Nations General Assembly President Petro Poroshenko reminded that Ukraine had asked the UN to deploy Blue Helmets to Donbas back in April 2015. “We firmly believe that progress on this important issue will be achieved,” he said.
Let us imagine that a political decision to deploy international United Nations peacekeeping mission in Donbas has already been taken. How well prepared is the Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons for Ukrainian authorities to return to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in full?
- We have advanced very far and within our competence are ready to take part in the return of certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts under the authority of Ukraine. We are ready to help local population to establish a peaceful life in all its aspects - from the repair of infrastructure to the psychological stability of citizens affected by the hostilities.
We are taking part in Minsk process, which, admittedly, comes with difficulties; this also applies to the release of persons illegally held in occupied territories and security sphere. Many Ukrainian politicians (I will not mention their names) want Minsk process to be suspended. What does it say - it tells us that people simply do not understand what they are talking about. They do not understand the degree of influence of certain international platforms on current situation.
As for the opposite side (Russian Federation) being ready to enter the peacekeeping mission, at the moment we do not see any efforts in this direction inside occupied territories. There may be problems with the extension of the law on a special order of local self-government in SRDLO, which expires on October 6. But that is up to people's deputies, the ministry cannot influence that. The fate of the law is not in hands of the government and our ministry in particular. And many other political things: consultations, models, participation in discussions, support for implementation efforts, for example, previously achieved political decisions are in our hands.
You came up with some suggestions ...
- Yes, of course.
Tell us which ones were accepted and why.
- What decision-making centers do you have in mind?
Political issues - this is obviously the president. Technical and humanitarian - this is the Cabinet of Ministers.
- Oh sure. See, we divide your question into several components. The first part is so-called humanitarian. In the first and the second documents, which were signed in Minsk, they are different in form: a protocol is a set of measures which mention the need to improve humanitarian situation in occupied territories, as well as in territories adjacent to the disengagement line.
Based on these, throughout each year we, together with humanitarian partners, prepared documents, which was so-called humanitarian response plan. This plan is written by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in collaboration with other UN agencies that work in Ukraine, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Cabinet of Ministers participates in this process, because later the government, as a steak holder, stands before the international community with this plan.
The plan shows, section by section, what kind of humanitarian assistance needs to be rendered, and after its approval the country receives it.
We present this humanitarian response plan to international partners - I, for example, presented one of the plans in New York, at the United Nations headquarters the current plan I presented in Brussels and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs did in New York. In Brussels, the plan was presented to the European Commission. The program for the provision of humanitarian aid was approved, and at the same presentation the European Commissioner announced the allocation of a little more than EUR 20 million for humanitarian aid. That is one document.
The second document, which was adopted by the government on basis of submission by the Security Service of Ukraine, was on procedure for crossing the contact line in connection with termination of the previous law on combating terrorism and a number of other laws. We have settled the rules for movement of goods to and from the area of ATO. After the adoption of the so-called law on the reintegration of Donbass in early 2018, this document will soon be revised by the Cabinet of Ministers.
There were many discussions around principles of permitted items lists suggested by SSU. There are two approaches to compiling the list - permitted items and prohibited ones. Even with the principle of prohibited items, the maximum norms for people carrying essential goods and food to the occupied territory were significantly expanded. Such items, by the way, now move more from the controlled territory. These norms now are such that one person cannot carry as much.
And what is the weight limit?
- 75 kg. There is a limit of 50 kg from the occupied territories. Occupation administrations of Russian Federation restricted import of goods to 50 kg, and they have certain restrictions - for example they concern meat and milk.
Sometimes people approach us with some issues, we discuss it with security forces, SFS, SSU, the military it is a whole procedure. Then we consult with public, then we draw up an order, which is registered with the Ministry of Justice. We add something all the time, so to speak. Add this and add that.
This is the second effort aimed at alleviating the humanitarian situation by maximizing the volume of essential goods transportation by individuals.
The third component is assistance in the work of international humanitarian organizations, such as UN agencies, the ICRC, which enjoy a special regime in general, like other organizations with high reputations. They are included in special list and cross the disengagement line without any additional procedures.
In occupied territories activities of a number of organizations are blocked, some are generally banished. This is a violation of previous agreements that provided maximum access for humanitarian assistance. With regard to, for example, drinking water - from 90% to 95% of water in occupied part of Luhansk oblast is now supplied from the territory controlled by our government. A mechanism has been agreed upon, according to Ukrainian legislation, which ensures the supply of water, settlement mechanism which is being constantly improved, the ICRC takes active part in this process; it is a matter of constant interaction in the format of Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk.
The repair of a part of South Donbass water pipeline agreed upon in Minsk was recently finished. Using satellites we established there the places where it was damaged due to shelling. This pipeline crosses the contact line several times and provides water to people on both sides.
In general, all humanitarian issues are solved by efforts of all authorities. As for the models of political settlement, there is a presidential decree that is published every year on Ukraine’s action plan with NATO. We are in it too. It mentions learning the experience of resolving other conflicts and its implementation here in Ukraine. As a result, a working group was created by the Cabinet, which includes representatives of Ukraine and Croatia.
As for current issues, for example, EECP (entry-exit checkpoint - Focus), things are going slowly here, but this is related to funding. We modernize the checkpoints to facilitate the movement of people from occupied territories. For example, works in Stanytsia Luhanska were just finished, now in Zaitseve, a major reconstruction is underway in Mayorsk, it will be finished soon. Almost along the entire disengagement line - in Maryinka, Novotroitske - everywhere.
As far as Ukraine is concerned we are doing everything to simplify the procedure of crossing the disengagement line; we do not observe anything similar on the other side. The same is now in Crimea. UAH 106 million was allocated to equip two EECPs and related services for people who go from Crimea to the free Ukraine.
I have a following question, since you tackled the border areas: how do you build relations with civil-military administrations? Please, give an example of your cooperation. Do you think the experience they have acquired over the past three years can be transferred over time to the territories that are now under occupation?
- Firstly there are government documents that administrations are obliged to comply with. Any administrations, not only civil-military, are essentially implementing bodies. But civil-military administrations have their own characteristics, a military component, so they have an additional set of functions which distinguish them from the rest. But policies are formed by ministries and the Cabinet of Ministers as a whole.
There are three areas in which the administrations work: EECPs, education and displaced universities, restoration of damaged infrastructure.
The administration is the body that provides maximum support for implementation of government plans. For example, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk administrations decide how to pass children using simplified procedure through the contact line. This involves border guards and everyone else.
There is an actual list of what should be done by central authorities - the government and our ministry in particular. For example, the involvement of international partners, the same Minsk. If you need to make a “window of silence”, you need to agree on all that. Our representative is participating in negotiations in Minsk. At the same time, administrations have impact on work of some public utilities, and they know better how and what to do.
Our ministry does not restore infrastructure facilities and does not claim to restore them. It must shape the policy and control the execution of tasks.
Sometimes there is a misunderstanding on the part of society, but we absolutely do not replace the administration and are not going to do that. This also applies to repairs, humanitarian response plan, state targeted rehabilitation program, and micro-construction in the eastern regions of Ukraine. Consolidation and coordination of all resources in clear strategic directions is all within the ministry and the Cabinet of Ministers framework. And execution, as a rule, is assigned to those who are closer to people. This is decentralization. At the same time, in order to find the best models for implementation of programs, as a rule, we organize pilot projects ourselves.
Please give a couple of examples.
- The first example is housing to displaced persons under the program 50/50, half is financed from the state budget, half - from the local budget. Before we developed this mechanism, there were a lot of regulations, laws, resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers on how to find a way around the Housing Code of the Ukrainian SSR, active since Soviet times, to provide housing to internally displaced persons. We were in Georgia, studied Georgian experience; representatives of several territorial communities accompanied us. We looked at how the so-called point system works there, which is difficult to implement quickly in legislation. However, if you delegate this right to local communities, it can be done faster.
We received some money from the state budget, developed a mechanism by which this housing can be provided fairly quickly to internally displaced persons living in a community. We allocated money received from the state budget to the community so that it additionally allocated 50% of the amount needed for housing construction, which would be distributed within the community according to a special point system established in the community. Such housing does fall under the category of social, for which there is a waiting list. When the armed conflict ends, people can return to their homes, and this housing remains the property of the community.
Were there any cases when one some local residents from the waiting list were indignant: they gave them housing, but not me?
- There were not, because housing is distributed at community level. What good is Georgian experience: there is less than one tenth of a percent (I don’t remember exactly) of all housing issued, was appealed in court. And of these claims a small part was recognized by the court as fair demands.
So this issue is also in line with decentralization, which means additional resources for communities. Add to this the best practices of countries that have been through armed conflicts. And at the same time, it is not necessary to change the current legislation, although, in my opinion, it’s time to change the Housing Code of the Ukrainian SSR.
And this pilot worked quite quickly this year, although before that there were many unsuccessful attempts to launch it in a different form. For example, there is an agreement with КfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau - German state bank. - Focus) it allocates money for construction of housing, which is then distributed through central authorities. This agreement on allocation of EUR 9 million for provision of apartments has been developed by KfW and involved structures since 2014. The project undergoes a long-term coordination, it is analyzed by what procedure to act and so on, and still they return to this tactic, to the point system, which we applied in our pilot.
Suppose tomorrow the occupation ends and the Ukrainian authorities return to Donetsk. It is necessary to make an inventory of property. Something captured, something destroyed. A person can come home, and strangers live there. It is possible. Sometimes a person does not want to go back, transport his family, change jobs, he has already found himself in a new place. And he will have a choice of what he can get from the state. Using the example of other conflicts, it can be said how in some countries certificates were issued in case if someone’s apartment was occupied. But this is another story.
The second pilot is being done jointly with the Swiss government in Popasna Luhansk oblast. It concerns the coordination of efforts at the level of a community regarding mine safety. The project develops special solutions, local models for reducing the risks to the population due to mines. This is an information campaign. This includes teaching children at schools and adult education at enterprises where there are the most vulnerable professions, marking dangerous that have not yet been cleared of mines or which cannot be cleaned because they are polluted every day. That is, marking, training, registration and assistance to victims.
More than 70 mine replicas were manufactured, which are sent to the east of the country and shown in schools. The fact is that we often encounter profanation; there are effective models and ineffective ones. The image of a mine on an A4 sheet of paper, a drawing or a photo is one thing, and a real size replica is quite another. Everyone says including child psychologists that the actual mine replicas makes mines more recognizable on the ground than any drawing or even a color photo.
According to the results of the project, guidelines will be developed for those who work with children, who deliver lectures, and here we have another partner - the Ministry of Education. Regional teacher training centers also received the models and familiarized themselves with the methodology, what to notice first and how to behave when they detect mines. Someone must stand by and not let anyone in until the sappers arrive, someone must call them and so on.
We do the third pilot with the World Bank. If in terms of mines we use Croatian and partially Bosnian experience, this time we take the experience of Israel as a model. It is about increasing the resilience of communities in a conflict zone or affected by an armed conflict. Residents of some communities, which are 800 meters from Gaza Strip, do not leave their homes; they have learned to live in such difficult conditions. Being in a constant state of fear, expectation of danger, such a community shows its resilience. Not only do people stay at their places, more people are coming, they are not troubled by the proximity of the contact line. The stability of a community gives people confidence in themselves, they develop business there, create families - they live a normal life.
It is clear that if your house is “covered with Grads”, you are not into ordinary life, but the residents of the Israeli communities know how to react in situations of different degrees of danger. There is a special work with children it may seem an ordinary section for kids, but there they will teach not to be afraid of a snake, by letting you touch it, and therefore, to overcome fears. Psychological counseling instills psychological stability not only to an individual, but also to the whole community. And from such communities like from bricks, the whole country is built.
People know how to come to the rescue, they know what apartment a lonely old woman lives in, who cannot move independently and needs to be helped down to the shelter during the shelling. They know that you need to help a woman, a single mother with two children. Such things are not only psychologically assimilated, there is a comprehensive program, for example, bomb shelters in every home. They know how long the shell flies to their home; they know how much time they have to protect themselves. Wherever there is fired, they know where to run. This is a whole range of activities. This pilot will start in October. We agreed with our Israeli partners when a study tour was organized for us by the Council of Europe. There are several communities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts that are ready to take part in the project.
Well, now let's imagine: a political decision has been taken, peacekeepers are deployed, and Ukraine is taking over the recently occupied territories. Police are created, elections are held, or transitional authorities work. Which of the known models is considered optimal for us: Croatian, Bosnian or any other? Or is it a hybrid version that is based on different models of peaceful resolution of the post-war situation? And what is Ukrainian specificity?
- First, politicians avoid talking about the fact that in any case we will need a transitional period. How long will it last? - a year or two, no one can say right now, just as no one can say for sure about configuration of the peacekeeping mission and all its inherent elements. I can explain why: first, to deploy such a mission, a decision of the UN Security Council is required. Ukraine cannot independently determine what is defined on another level - the UN Security Council and our international partners. Clear outlines of the mission will be available only after adoption of relevant resolution. In general terms the processes of introducing peacekeepers to different countries are the same, but in details they can be very different.
Is the chronology of actions the same everywhere or may it differ?
It varies. In my opinion, Croatian experience suits us better. This is the best option for Ukraine, unlike Bosnian, if we talk about the conflict in the Balkans. By the way, the Croatian model is considered to be the most successful example of resolving an international conflict.
It is important to understand that in Croatia, based on the experience accumulated in our ministry and in framework of the working group, there were three main components: military, civil and police. But in different conflicts, the sequence of events may be different. The proportion, so to speak, or the role of individual components may also differ. The degree of organization and interaction, the level of integration of components may also vary.
In Croatia it was done like this: first, returned territories were demilitarized, then the police came in, then elections were held. And the police component was transitional throughout the year. Central Croatian authorities returned gradually after the elections to local governments, which continued their work within the framework of their authority.
Will the public be involved in discussing the issues of Donbas reintegration and at what stage, is there a general idea of the mood that is under occupation, how much is local population waiting for the return of Ukrainian authorities and does it consider this their liberation?
- Yes, local population is ready for the return of Ukrainian government; there is a positive trend in this regard. We have sociological studies that have been conducted on this issue, including in occupied territories. They were conducted by Cyprus organization SEED, first time in 2016 and second time this year. There is a comparative analysis throughout Ukraine on a regional basis. 10 thousand people were interviewed, including in occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, but they failed to conduct surveys in Crimea. In addition, we have a lot of information from people who constantly move across the disengagement line.
Of course, we receive information from our international partners who work in occupied territories. But all information is impersonal whenever possible so as not to expose our people. I don’t know what our politicians are afraid of - overwhelmingly, the population of Ukraine, in all regions without exception, supports the implementation of Minsk agreements. Of course, it is necessary to work with the population, but very often politicians set the tone for the discussions and substitute concepts, a kind of wishful thinking.
Do you have any concerns that the election campaign, which will last a whole year, can spoil this universal support for Minsk agreements?
I do not think that elections will spoil this, but they can polarize society. Separate efforts in districts or in oblasts may change some figures, but in half a year, in a year, if the discussion is unproductive, it can tangibly change the landscape of public opinion. But I do not want to make predictions. Today, as I know, our primary foreign partners will make every effort to ensure that the discussion within political forces, at least those that call themselves democratic, of European orientation, does not go beyond and does not violate the idea of national unity.
Have you learned something useful for yourself from those peace plans offered by politicians, what do you know about the proposed concepts of Donbass reintegration?
- Nothing. Except for the president, who clearly says that he supports Minsk agreements. I also heard statements of Kurt Volcker regarding Minsk process and his recommendations on which way to go. He believes it is necessary to extend the law “On the special order of local self-government in separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts”
Well, let us describe the option of reintegration that is considered acceptable today step by step. Decision is made, Ukraine enters: first, second, third ...
- For starters, it is a military component - international armed forces. Their first task is to take control over the boundary line and external border with Russian Federation. As long as the military equipment of Russian Federation, Russian military personnel is in Donbas, the order of movement across the line will remain the same - through EECPs. How long demilitarization of the territory will last is unknown. There are five hundred Russian tanks, if not more, hundreds of other types of heavy equipment and weapons, thousands of armed people.
I want to emphasize again: it is unprofitable for many politicians to say so, they think that everything can be solved in one day or a maximum in a week. This is a long process. To begin with, after the decision is made at the highest level, national contingents should be formed; military personnel from various countries should arrive in Ukraine. Then they should deploy on site.
But after all, they will not drive Russian tanks across the border.
- No, but it can be done in parallel. There are several models. For example, the first, all military equipment is assembled in a certain place where it is supervised. This moment is in Minsk agreements. It was even discussed that a GPS-receiver should be installed on each piece of equipment. There is another option: demilitarization can take place in stages, as in Croatia. At first, military units move back a certain distance away - they don’t leave immediately, but gradually, from line to line, until they cross the Ukrainian-Russian border.
Demilitarization is the disengagement of forces. And then: the military will leave the minefields will stay, unmarked. Large areas of land where you cannot drive. Yes, and you need to wait until 40 thousand armed people from Russian Federation go home.
Let's go back to heavy weapons. The logic of Minsk process is as follows: first, heavy weapons are withdrawn for a fairly long distance. But this is not complete or partial demilitarization, it is a decrease in tension. In this case, someone must engage in life support, and not only the civilian population, but also the military on both sides.
In the occupied territory they have already forgotten what elections are. At a request of Ukrainian side there should not be any quasi-state structures. According to all international documents, elections in Donbas must be held according to Ukrainian laws. All citizens who live in occupied territories, including internally displaced persons, are entitled to participate in them. And at the same time there are armed people, equipment which means that someone must ensure the safety of civilian population and public order. This is the second stage, here the police engage. And only then comes the time for the third stage - local elections.
Enforced by the peacekeepers?
- By this time there will be no peacekeepers there.
And how long will it take?
- Hard to say. So we have demilitarization, security, possibility for everyone to return, ensuring order, elections. In my opinion, everything is logical. All this is all in Minsk agreements.
But what about amnesty - another controversial issue?
- Amnesty, full or partial, is needed, no doubt. We have an amnesty bill, which is passed, but not signed, for objective reasons, I think. Because Ukraine fulfills its obligations under Minsk agreements: one law passed, the second ... And Russian side does not fulfill its obligations.
No conflict in the world was resolved without amnesty. Amnesty is a necessary attribute, confirmed by the experience of resolving armed conflicts. All people who did not commit serious crimes are entitled to amnesty. But now I know that deputies are discussing such things as collaboration, amnesty, lustration. But after all, lustration took place across the country, let's not forget. And this is not a subject of criminal law. But amnesty is another matter.
At the same time, I assume there can be some other restrictions of rights with respect to inhabitants of the occupied territories. For example, I don’t understand how after all these events one can give access to state secrets to a person who worked for Russian Federation. Amnesty must be there, but for whom - this is up to Verkhovna Rada to decide. But besides a certain defeat in rights, there is another point stipulated in Minsk agreements. People who have taken their posts in local government bodies cannot be removed from their positions until the end of their term of office - there is no such privilege anywhere in Ukraine. This is done to create balance. Someone is given additional protection; someone is exempted from criminal liability.
Of course, it is necessary to demotivate those who are faced with choice of whether go and serve in this quasi-state entity or not. And the proposed model is not a carrot and stick approach, but a complex of psychological and legislative measures aimed at reducing the level of resistance against Ukrainian authorities.
But no one refuses the obligation to establish the truth and punish people who have committed serious crimes, crimes against humanity. Such persons will not be exempt from prosecution. And here is another important point: the world community demands individual responsibility for war crimes.
The whole world will demand from Ukraine that it should be impossible for people guilty of mass murder and torture hide among those who committed minor crimes and who were amnestied. Always in all conflicts that are resolved with participation of the European Union and democratic countries, the inevitability of punishment for crimes against humanity comes first. As an example: the prerequisite for joining the EU for the former Yugoslav republics was the investigation of war crimes and the search for those accused of organizing massacres to transfer them to the Hague Tribunal.
You can’t trust those who say that the Americans and the Europeans are putting pressure on us so that we forgive everyone, this is absolutely not true. Our task is not to send everyone the same message: you are all terrorists. Who is a terrorist? A Head teacher of a kindergarten, or what? This will work well for Russian propaganda. And we need to say this: guys, we know everything, if we don’t know something we will establish it and you will not escape responsibility. And we also know about those who are not guilty, and we will not offend them, they will live on with their lives and they should not worry.
How many of them are there, armed people - according to various estimates, 37 thousand of the locals. This is less than one percent of total population. If a person, who had no income, took a weapon, and they sent him to guard a food warehouse, this is one story, and if you killed Ukrainian soldiers at the airport and spoke about it on camera, this is another story. Our information policy should be: we will figure it out; we will know the whole truth.
And will the experience of your ministry obtained during the reintegration of Donbass come in handy when Crimea’s turn comes? Do you deal with Crimea now or only Donbas?
- Of course, we do. We have a department for Crimea, which does not do anything else. We have the first deputy minister, Yusuf Kurkchi, a representative of Mejlis, who coordinates the work of the department and all the authorities in order to keep in touch with our citizens who remain in the temporarily occupied peninsula.
There are educational programs, health programs, cultural ties, simplified procedures for crossing the administrative line, environmental issues, and so on. We are also engaged in monitoring the legal regime in Crimea, which is different from the one that operates in the east of Ukraine. With the help of satellites and computer technologies, we monitor ships that enter seaports or are on a roadstead near ports. Here we work together with relevant services. We also cooperate with public organizations that record all the facts of human rights violations in Crimea.
We also make our proposals on sanctions, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs extends and synchronizes them with the sanctions that the European Union introduces. It must be admitted that it is much more difficult for us to work with Crimea. There is not a single multilateral document signed by Russia after the annexation of the peninsula. But as for the occupied territories of Donbas they are officially recognizes as part of Ukraine by Kremlin.