Before talking about any exchanges, one should remember that the Minsk agreements are relevant only to those who are kept in Ukraine as a result of the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) and those kept in Donetsk and Luhansk. They have no relevance to Sentsov, Klykh, Karpyuk (Ukrainian political prisoners kept in Russia – Ed.), so this issue cannot be subjected to the Minsk negotiations.
Luhansk and Donetsk treat these Russian citizens as those who are convicted for participating in Donbas conflict, and this is true. They demand to put them on the list so that we could release them. Ukraine has some questions about these people.
One of the arguments of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is "very witty" – according to the international convention, we cannot transfer citizens of the Russian Federation to a third party. As though we did not have such exchanges before, as though I did not organize the exchange of the Ukrainians for the Ukrainians. We have already had such cases. A couple of times, actually. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has interfered here. They have already interfered in December, they were trying to defend their position, and nearly undermined the exchange.
Then the Ukrainian side claims - and this is true – that, for example, Donetsk and Luhansk have put on the exchange list five "Berkut" officers (former pro-government officers, loyal to Yanukovych during Maidan, - Ed.), who are being tried in court. Ukraine does not agree with this.
Here is my position, and not only mine – Minsk agreements prescribe "all to all" exchange. The Minsk agreements were signed long ago, but on March 29, 2018, the heads of the Normandy Four have signed a statement on the optimization and strengthening of the Minsk agreements implementation. Its last point was to continue the successful exchanges that took place on December 27, 2017, following the "all to all" formula. Macron, Merkel, Putin, and Poroshenko signed it. All installed on all installed. The answer of the Ukrainian side was like this: we cannot exchange citizens of the Russian Federation, we cannot transfer "Berkut" officers. So it is just the way it is.
I do not accept any arguments in this respect. Because if we give an example of the Western countries, we should remember that Israel has exchanged 1026 people for one sergeant in the Israeli army. And 600 out of these 1026 persons were convicted for numerous murders, for terrorist actions, and for banditry. They were all transferred to get back one person. Is it too important if we want to return our servicemen - and there some sit for two or three years in torture chambers in Donetsk and Luhansk, and only 46 people - will we give up or not the "Berkut people"? Is more important for us to punish them with serving their sentence here, when our citizens, whom we want to return, are forced to suffer there? I believe that these arguments cannot just take place.
And here is another example. A person has committed a serious crime somewhere in Chernihiv region, he has nothing to do with Donetsk or Luhansk People’s Republic, the Russian Federation or the ATO. Donetsk and Luhansk side say: we want to get him. And this is also the subject of consideration. How so? We want to free our people. Realizing this, the "republics" insist on liberating those whom they want to. It is necessary to agree on the concessions – either they fall, or we fall. They have taken a principled stand: all agreed to all agreed. Moscow supports them in it. Then we have the line of different political statements, threats, demands, and ultimatums.
They usually state that "we demand," "no, we do insist," "we have stated an ultimatum." And what of it, all these ultimatums, demands, statements? Nothing. So we must find a compromise. A direct dialogue. We must make sure that these people return home, at any cost. And we know the price – mutual release from their side. That is all...
Some people say: "How can Medvedchuk liberate the prisoners?" Is it all right if Medvedchuk has already released 481 people as a result of the negotiations? And the nationalists-radicals say: "No, he cannot be charged with this." I would not be surprised if they said that "the prisoners must be returned, let them go back into captivity; they were released by Medvedchuk, and we need our patriots to be released." No one negotiates with the patriots there. And I believe that they will not talk to them in the future.
Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice, spoke about this in 'A Big Interview with a Big Politician' on 112 Ukraine.
Read the original text at 112.ua.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners.