(Forbes) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron called on the Russian government to do something about the recent escalation of rebel fighting in the Donbass region of east Ukraine on Friday. The two requested both Russian backed separatists and the Ukrainian government get active on a prisoner exchange program, a move Merkel believes might ease tensions and help move the beleaguered Minsk peace agreement forward.
The Minsk Accord has had two rewrites and has gone nowhere fast. For their part, the Russian government has to stop supplying arms and logistical support to ethnic Russians and other rebels joining a fight for autonomy from Kiev. Ukraine’s government has also had to honor a regional vote in Donbass and Luhansk, but they have yet to do that. If such a vote were to be held, both would likely vote for full autonomy. As it is, at least one state in East Ukraine is now using the ruble instead of the Ukrainian hryvnia.
From Merkel and Macron’s joint statement yesterday:
“As an expression of their respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron reaffirm the need for full implementation of the Minsk agreements. There is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful solution to the conflict.”
The U.S. government is looking to provide lethal military support to those fighting against the separatists in Donbass, setting Washington up for another defacto proxy war with the Russians.
The most famous U.S. vs Russia proxy war was the war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The war is largely seen as the brainchild of foreign policy chessboarder Zbigniew Brzezinski who has stated that supporting anti-Soviet rebels there — known as the mujahideen (now part of the Taliban) — would draw the Soviet Army in for a fight.
Previously, President Barack Obama was adamant on staying out of a firefight with Russians in Ukraine. Senator John McCain, arguably the most vehemently anti-Russian figure in the Senate and a frequent voter of anti-Russian bills, promoted lethal military support for Ukraine every chance he can.
Merkel and Macron also “demanded” further opening of infrastructure between Donbass and Luhansk, another region sucked into the Russia-Ukraine imbroglio. The civil unrest there has led to sectoral sanctions against Russia, though the latest round of sanctions has more to do with Putin’s supposed election meddling in 2016 and his support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad, a long-time target of Washington’s regime change policy in the Middle East.
On Thursday, December 21, Russia’s official state media reported that Putin and Merkel discussed the situation in Donbass following Russia’s withdrawal from ceasefire coordination committee between Moscow and Kiev.
Putin told Merkel that “the Ukrainian authorities for a long time through various restrictions and provocations purposefully hampered the conditions” of the Russian government in the Donbass. A Christmas truce pact has been agreed upon, at the very least.
Last week, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that Russian diplomatic observers have vacated the war zone.
Russia and Ukraine used to be political allies.
Ukraine was the most important country member of the U.S.S.R. The two share much in common. It is the only large former Soviet state that shares the same religion, Orthodox Christianity. Other larger Soviet republics, namely Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, are majority Muslim.
All hell broke loose between Russia and Ukraine after the 2014 so-called “Euromaidan” protest against president Viktor Yanukovych. The Russians discovered that U.S. officials were discussing who should lead Ukraine after Yanukovych. They liked Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who ultimately became the prime minister and ushered in an austerity program so unpopular that he was eventually — and somewhat literally — lifted out of parliament.
When Yatsenyuk took over, it is believed that the Russians convinced the autonomous republic of Crimea, a southeastern peninsula in the Black Sea, to hold a referendum on secession. The referendum to secede from Ukraine was held on March 14, 2014. A large majority voted in favor of leaving Ukraine. Russia officially annexed it two days later.
The United Nations does not consider Crimea part of Russia.
Europeans have been brought on board to mediate the ongoing, bitter divorce between Russia and Ukraine, now heading into its fourth year.