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February 7, marks 25 years since establishing diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Germany. In 1992, Germany was among the first Western countries that sent its ambassador to Ukraine. The current German ambassador in Ukraine, Ernst Reichel has been holding office for only six months. But this anniversary was "marked" with a scandal. The ambassador voiced the possibility of holding elections in the occupied territories of Donbas in the presence of Russian troops there. In an interview with "RBK-Ukraine", he compared the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) with Ukraine’s Donbas, and then said that he sees no problems in holding local elections even before Russia filfills all its obligations under the Minsk agreements.
"If Ukrainian side insists to hold elections after it fully takes control of the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, then this means that Russia must fulfill almost all of those provisions, that do not depend on it, and only then important requirements might be implemented. It is rather difficult to imagine holding local elections without security, but I am convinced that this is not something impossible. Everything depends on the conditions," he noted, adding that "the last parliamentary elections in DDR, which were to replace the communist regime were held in the presence of the western group of the Soviet troops and in conditions of communist regime."
The ambassador underlined that he did not find the situations identical, "but not necessarily the elections in Donbas could take place on the condition that Russian troops go away or Ukrainian flag hangs at every city administration."
Neither Ukrainian MPs, who called on the Foreign Ministry to bring Ambassador "on the mat," nor the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin liked it. Klimkin claimed: "Stop this farce".
Today Ukrainian politicians seem to be outraged, but nothing new has Reichel really said in his statement. Let us see previous remarks of Mr. Ambassador, which should be no less shocking than the last one. And after that statements no one brought ambassador to mat of the Foreign.
In fact, Reichel repeats the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister (former) Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the settlement of Donbas conflict. For example, during his visit to Kharkiv December 14, Ernst Reichel commented on the so-called "Steinmeier formula" to hold elections in occupied territories.
He said that the so-called "Steinmeier formula" provides order in which the Verkhovna Rada adopts law on the first elections in the occupied territories, then elections are held in the area, after which the OSCE concludes whether they were consistent with to the European standards.
"If the elections do not meet it, the law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (on the special status) will not come into force," the ambassador said.
Thus Reichel allowed elections in occupied territories before Ukraine’s getting control over the borders. "It will be possible if there are conditions for the free expression of the will of people in Donbas," the diplomat stated.
Now compare it with his yesterday’s speech:
“Undoubtedly, elections should be held in those conditions, which correspond to European standards. And therefore safety, as well as other requirements of the electoral process, are essential. Any Ukrainian politician should be able to conduct his campaign without a fear. And if it is not possible, then such elections cannot meet the standards. But not necessarily to the elections in Donbas could take place only on the conditions that Russian troops go away or Ukrainian flag would hang on every city administration.”
So what is the difference? Of course, we are not talking about the feasibility of such a plan for Ukraine. We are talking about the position of ambassador. And it has not changed since December. However, the reactions are different. Rather, in December there was no reaction at all. But today Ambassador was accused of being a friend of Russia, attribute the statement to the elections in Germany. All this is pretty funny, because there are no “Trumps” in Germany, who would demand to change the policy towards Ukraine. Actually, Reichel clearly says about it:
“I am sure that after the elections in Germany its attitude to Ukraine and Russia will not change. According to recent polls, after the elections to the Bundestag, there would be will be approximately 75% of the deputies supporting Germany's current foreign exchange rate. Policy, which now the federal government implements in relation to Russia and Ukraine, is supported by most of the opposition.”
Of course, Angela Merkel seems to be fed up with ineffective negotiations of "Minsk" and "Norman" formats that do not lead to peace in Donbas. Berlin conducts pressure both on Moscow and Kyiv. And before the elections, it would be useful for Merkel to demonstrate at least some progress.
Let us remember the statements of German Ambassador on certain areas of Donbas.
"This (Steinmeier - Ed.) formula, which is the subject of debate, stipulates that local elections will be held under the supervision and with the assistance of the OSCE. In fact, OSCE should confirm whether the elections meet international standards. If the OSCE confirms, legislation on "Special status" comes into force. If not, any "special status" would not be introduced,” said Reichel in December 2016.
In September, ambassador in his interview with "Interfax-Ukraine" claimed that "In the conflict, which is regulated by Minsk agreements, Ukraine cannot 100% defend its interests, so it must make certain concessions." It could be called a total “treason” for those who are not aware of the German position and personal position of the Reichel.
He is a diplomat with almost thirty years of experience, he worked in Russia and in NATO. In 1988, he came to the diplomatic service. In 1990, he was sent to the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg, and then worked as a consultant for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany in 1992 - 1996.
In 1999, Reichel became a member of the legal department of the German permanent representative to the United Nations in New York. After working there for a year, he returned to Germany and worked in the Foreign Ministry. Since 2003, he was deputy head of the Office of the Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Then again, he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Head of the Department for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and the Eastern Partnership. Its first ambassador post he served in Kosovo, in 2011. Two years later, he was recalled and appointed special representative of Germany to the countries of South Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the countries of the European Free Trade Association.
Since August 2016, Reichel works in Ukraine, replacing Christoph Weil. Then Reichel was considered a “copy” of Steinmeier, i.e. he supports the gradual fulfillment of Minsk deal conditions in exchange for a gradual lifting of the sanctions with Russia. A few years ago, Reichel urged Kyiv not to rush into the EU, speaking of patience in reserve. This is not a "hawk" in terms of the issue of Ukrainian European integration.
Of course, Kyiv is obliged to respond to the diplomat's words, if they harm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. But Foreign Ministry should not be on the bit of the politicians, who have just read something on the Internet, saw some “treason,” and rushed to the parliamentary rostrum to express their indignation. Reichel was not exacted responsible in December, why have they decided to do it now? In the race of "great patriots," it is important not to harm the country, because every day Ukraine has less and less friends.