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Kurt Volker on Donbas conflict: We want to stop it and we want the UN mission there

Author : Julian RÖPCKE

Respondent : Kurt Volker

Bild: Kurt Volker commented on whether Donald Trump would change his attitude towards Russia after the meeting with Vladimir Putin
09:10, 12 July 2018

Read the original text at Bild.  

Open source

In an interview for Bild, Special Representative of the US State Department Kurt Volker commented on whether Donald Trump would change his attitude towards Russia after the meeting with Vladimir Putin  

JULIAN RÖPCKE, BILD: Since the first match of the World Cup was held in Moscow, 45 Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in the east of Ukraine. Does Putin use the World Cup to divert attention from his war in Ukraine?

Kurt Volker: Over the past four years, the conflict has not fundamentally changed. They stand on the same line of contact, every night there are fights, mortars are on the move, snipers are shooting, the conditions for the local civilians is terrible there. Nothing has changed during the World Cup. One of the reasons is that Russia continues to deny its responsibility for the conflict in eastern Ukraine. But it is just not true. There was no conflict in the east of Ukraine until Russia ignited it with intelligence, weapons, people, and military leadership. Russia has created this conflict, and since it still denies everything, the Minsk agreements have not brought any concrete results. Russia does not take them seriously.

You say that the humanitarian situation of the occupied regions is terrible. Why there are no protests against the authorities, Moscow's proteges?

First, you must understand that "people's republics" are not free societies, where people can organize demonstrations, choose their leaders themselves, and so on. The fact that people do not protest does not mean that they are happy. Secondly, they are disappointed by almost everyone. They are outraged not only by local gangs and Russia but also outraged by Kyiv, which does not save them and does not help them.

Related: Volker: Assumptions about possibility of recognizing Crimea are too hasty

According to the deputy head of the OSCE monitoring mission, Alexander Hug, both sides do not follow Minsk agreements. This is confirmed by most of the OSCE's daily reports. You are laying all the responsibility on Russia and its troops. How does one link with the other?

You should not forget what kind of work Alexander Hug performs and what position he takes. Observersб who every day work in the occupied territories with the control posts and people holding them insight are under his supervision. In addition, he works for the OSCE, and Russia is one of its members. It is possible that the Russian ambassador to the OSCE is knocking at his door and says like, hey you are working for me. That is, I want to say that the observers should be very, very careful to maintain a balance.

And how do you assess the situation?

Of course, Ukrainians also shoot during the fighting, but you must not forget that everything happens on Ukrainian territory. It is normal when a country has its own soldiers on its land. It is abnormal when a country has its soldiers in a foreign land. This is the situation in eastern Ukraine. There are violations of the armistice, coming from the Ukrainian side. But most of the violations, the most serious ones, come from the side occupied by the Russians.

In the end, we should not forget how the OSCE calculates ceasefire violations. If you defend a village in your own country and fall under mortar fire, then this is ONE violation. If you open fire in the direction from which you were fired, then this is also ONE violation. This is the essence of the expression "both sides". It seems to be correct, but it completely distorts the nature of the problem.

Related: US not to recognize Crimea's annexation, - Volker

We constantly hear about heavy weapons in the east of Ukraine. Alexander Hug told Bild that the OSCE had plates of "separatist" tanks, but it did not publish them. Do not you think that this data should be published in order to establish once and for all where the weapons are from?

Of course! That would help a lot. The occupied territory is in fact very small, but there are more tanks there than Britain, France, and Germany. In 2014, they were still not there. That is, they had to come from somewhere ... Trust me, this is 100% Russian armament. I just do not have enough imagination to believe that this weapon has got there from somewhere else.

But one thing is to "believe", and facts are the other thing. Why doesn’t OSCE publish the plates, which would enable accurate determination of the origin of tanks?

As I said earlier: the OSCE has a definite task. It would be dishonest to put it in a situation that could be dangerous for it. Nevertheless, if this information (about serial numbers of tanks, - Ed.) is available in Germany, France, the US or elsewhere, we will have no doubts about what is happening.

The lack of publication leads to the fact that many people in Germany say: "You claim that there are Russian tanks there, but you cannot prove it."

I find it strange. Why should you prove something that you can see with your own eyes (laughs)?!

Related: Parubiy and Volker discuss security situation in Ukraine

You made it clear that, in your opinion, the Russian government and, accordingly, President Putin are behind the crisis in the east of Ukraine. July 16,  President Trump holds a meeting with Putin in Helsinki. There is a fear that he will weaken his position with regard to Russia and its Ukrainian policy. Do you share this fear?

No, I do not. I think it important that President Trump and President Putin meet. It would not be normal if they did not meet, even if they hold different points of view. The President will hold a meeting as he finds it proper. As you might have heard from National Security Advisor John Bolton and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, we will not change our position of non-recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea.

With regard to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, we made it clear that we want to stop it and want the UN mission there. But, unfortunately, there is a high probability that Putin and Russia will continue to deny their participation in the conflict and therefore there is no reason to hope for progress.

Related: Volker: Ukrainians cannot take back territories occupied by Russia

Some leaders of European countries and governments are talking about the "deal", according to which Russia will be able to keep Crimea if it leaves Donbas; and Russia will be removed from sanctions in response. Do not you think that the US president will join this position?

Europe negotiates on such positions from time to time, and even more often they say that some people want to remove sanctions that put some pressure on the elite in Putin's entourage. But I do not expect that status quo will change in the near future. German Chancellor Merkel also sees the situation as it is, and she will not ease the pressure. Talks about the possible "exchange" of Crimea for Donbas just shock me. What if we "exchange" some parts of Germany? Who has the right to do this? Who has the right to do it with Ukraine? ... Nobody!

Related: Decisions on Donbas depend on Putin, - Volker

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