After three years of negotiations in humanitarian group, I cannot say that we have made some significant progress. Nevertheless, exchanges of detained persons continue. Last year, we managed to drive from the deadlock, and on December 27 the long-awaited exchange took place.
For my part, I expect to perform the long-awaited exchange of detainees under “all confirmed for all confirmed” format. I don’t know what the response of the Ukrainian side will be, but now we receive unacceptable proposals from them, because they offer us a regular exchange instead of “all for all” one.
There are people who are certainly staying on the territory of Ukraine, but still the Ukrainian side does not confirm their presence. We are working on this, and, as compared to 2015-2016, we have made a significant progress in this matter. I am very grateful to the international organizations that assist us. There are cases when UN or ICRC monitors visit persons whom we request and confirm their staying in prison, but the Ukrainian side denies these facts and says that they don’t have those people. So, we often refer to the information of international organizations.
I believe that we need to improve the situation for those people and their relatives, on both sides of the contact line. We should perform the “all for all” exchange and start working on other issues, such as missing persons, environment problems and so on. However, we have no progress in these issues, because they are completely blocked by the Ukrainian side.
For example, we could have long started to work on the issue of missing persons for those people who live in ignorance and uncertainty about their relatives’ fates. We would have put a fine point on this issue a long ago.
To date, according to the UN reports, there are 900 unidentified graves in the territory of Ukraine. And I am fairly certain that some of the missing people could have been found there. But, the Ukrainian side completely blocks this issue, so we cannot move forward in this matter. The Ukrainian side insists that other experts should be involved in the work group. We believe it to be inappropriate, because there are two parties to the conflict – Ukraine and the Donetsk People’s Republic, that is, we have to handle this issue ourselves. Moreover, both we and the Ukrainian side are ready for the procedure. All they need to exchange DNA databases is one political decision. I hope that this process will get off the ground, and we start taking action in this direction.
So, I can neither say that we have made a significant progress nor say that we make no headway.
As a result of the previous exchanges, 670 persons have been returned to the Ukrainian side, 790 persons – to the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Minsk Agreement is the only political means to suspend intense phase of military operation. Nevertheless, it can hardly be effective to stop the bloodshed for peaceful population of Donbass.