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Poroshenko Did Not Offer to Hand the Donbass Over to Russia

The Russian edition of Forbes claims that Putin told industrialists that during the Minsk 2 negotiations Ukraine’s Poroshenko offered to hand over the Donbass to Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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An article has recently appeared in the Russian edition of Forbes which claims that Putin told a meeting of industrialists on 19th March 2016 that during the negotiations in Minsk in February 2015 Ukraine’s President Poroshenko offered to hand over the Donbass to Russia.

Supposedly Putin refused this offer and responding by telling Poroshenko he was “out of his mind” and that Russia did not want the Donbass and that if Ukraine did not want it either then Poroshenko and his government should simply recognise its independence.

Is there any truth to this story?

Putin’s comments to the industrialists were private and the account of them given to Forbes was provided by a source who wished to remain anonymous. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Alexander Shokhin, the chair of the Russian Union of Industrialists, have however confirmed that Putin did provide the industrialists with an account of what happened during the negotiations in Minsk in February 2015.

Both Peskov and Shokhin however say that the source who leaked the story to Forbes is distorting Putin’s comments. In effect that means that they are saying that Putin did not speak of an offer by Poroshenko to hand over the Donbass to Russia.

For once the Ukrainians agree. They too deny Poroshenko offered to hand over the Donbass to Russia. Yevhen Perebyinis, the spokesman of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, is even saying there was simply a misunderstanding caused by the fact that Poroshenko was speaking Ukrainian so that Putin would not have understood him. It is in fact inconceivable that Poroshenko ever made any such offer or that Putin ever thought he did. European sources have in the past confirmed that when Putin and Poroshenko meet they talk to each other in Russian. Whilst this is a fact Poroshenko might not want Ukrainians to know, it rules the theory of a misunderstanding out.

If Poroshenko did not offer to hand over the Donbass to Russia, and if there was no misunderstanding, is Putin simply making the story up? That is very unlikely. Putin is usually very careful to give accurate accounts of his meetings. He would also know that a made-up story which included a claim that Poroshenko offered to hand over the Donbass would be bound to be made public even if it was given confidentially to a private meeting such as the one he had with the industrialists on 19th March 2016. Putin would also know that if the story ever became public the German and French leaders who were also present in Minsk would be able to refute it if it was not true.

So what did actually happen in Minsk?

We actually possess a very detailed account of what happened in Minsk provided the German magazine Der Spiegel based on information provided by Angela Merkel’s Chancellery. I have discussed Der Spiegel’s account of the Minsk negotiations in detail here. The description Der Spiegel has given of Poroshenko during the negotiations in Minsk is of a man intransigent to the point of delusion.

He refused to countenance any reference in the final document to autonomy for the Donbass or federalisation for Ukraine. He refused to meet – even informally – with the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. To the exasperation of the German and French leaders he even refused to recognise that his troops in the Debaltsevo pocket had been encircled. He categorically refused their urgings to order them either to surrender or retreat. When they did eventually retreat, shortly after the Minsk meeting had ended, suffering heavy loss of life, Poroshenko preposterously declared they had won a great victory.

A man who behaves in this way is hardly the sort of man who would float a proposal to surrender the Donbass to Russia. Poroshenko and his government refuse to recognise Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its union with Russia. On the contrary they not only dispute it but threaten with retaliatory action anyone who says they might recognise it.

It beggars belief that a Ukrainian President and government who refuse to recognise Crimea’s union with Russia would offer to hand over the Donbass to Russia.

What we know did happen in Minsk – and what seems to have been the genesis of the story in Forbes – is that Poroshenko also refused to resume social security payments to the people of the Donbass.

Putin pressed him on this issue pointing out that paying social security payments is an obligation Ukraine owes its citizens including the people of the Donbass. Poroshenko responded by telling Putin that Russia should pay the social security payments instead.

In what was by all accounts an angry exchange Putin replied that this was crazy and that if Ukraine was not prepared to discharge its basic responsibilities to its own citizens then it should accept their demand for independence.

Neither Putin nor Poroshenko spoke during this row of the Donbass becoming part of Russia and it has never previously been said that they did. An argument over security payments is being misrepresented to make it seem as if they did.

That it was this exchange that lies behind the story in Forbes is confirmed by the claim by Forbes’s source that Putin told the industrialists that Poroshenko asked him in Minsk to take financial responsibility for the Donbass. The source quotes Putin telling the industrialists that he told

Poroshenko that this would only be possible if the Donbass became part of Russia. Until then, and so long as the Donbass remained part of Ukraine, it was the Ukrainian authorities who were responsible for making the payments.

This of course is a garbled account of the row over social security payments that actually took place. The sequel to the row between Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk is that Poroshenko agrees that Ukraine would end its economic blockade of the Donbass. As with all the other things Poroshenko promised in Minsk, that never happened.

Putin has frequently described his row in Minsk with Poroshenko over the social security payments. It is one that clearly rankles with him. Obviously he did so again to the industrialists presumably in order to impress on them how difficult negotiating with the Ukrainians is.

The one question remaining is whether the source who spoke to Forbes deliberately distorted Putin’s words or whether there has simply been a mistake. Whilst it is impossible to know for sure, it is unfortunately highly likely that Putin’s words have been distorted intentionally.

Whilst Putin is supposed to have rejected Poroshenko’s offer, supposedly telling Poroshenko he was “out of his mind”, the story nonetheless conveys the impression of Putin as the puppet-master behind the events in the Donbass and makes him look untrustworthy and shifty, making claims about offers Poroshenko made to him which Poroshenko never in fact made.

Whether the truth of the motives behind this leak, it is a certainty the Russian authorities by now know who was the person responsible. Apparently 26 industrialists attended the meeting. The Russian authorities will have little difficulty tracing the source from such a small pool. Publicly misrepresenting words Putin said in private is something which is known to make him very angry.

The person responsible is no doubt going through a most uncomfortable time. As for the story itself, it should be treated as just another example in the seemingly endless succession of improbable or untrue things Putin is supposed to have said but never did.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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