Interview with MEP Rebecca harms: Ukraine needs peace, but Russia is interested in fomenting war

Speaking at the Royal Institute of international Affairs Chatham House in London, Petro Poroshenko has compared Russia with the crocodile from the sayings of Winston Churchill.

“Churchill said in January 1942: “one hopes that if it is enough to feed the crocodile, the crocodile will eat him later”. There is one place where these words are especially relevant – it is Ukraine. And this crocodile, of which many would like to feed, so he doesn’t eat them today is Russia”, – said the Ukrainian President.

Russia controlled fighters in the Donbas as not perform the Minsk agreement and do not perform. They don’t even want to provide a sustainable truce and the cease-fire, increasing the degree of conflict when it suits them. Did not bring any visible results and the last telephone conversation leaders “channel four”. According to Ukrainian and Western experts, these negotiations soon became a farewell to French President Francois Hollande – this Sunday France will host the first round of presidential elections.

The fall elections will be held in Germany, where confidently predict the re-election of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Therefore, the new progress in negotiations “channel format” should be expected soon after the presidential elections in France and the G7 summit on 25-27 may in Italy. In the meantime, the situation in the Donbass and the fate of the Minsk agreements in limbo. And while some European politicians and diplomats are advised to review the existing format of negotiations with Russia on Donbass, others to wait until Washington will form a more clear message on this issue.

Co-chair of the Green group in the European Parliament Rebecca harms believes that to move from a dead point, to put an end to the deaths in the Donbass and the ongoing fighting will help, the “blue helmets” of the UN. According to her, the possibility of expanding the peacekeeping mission in the Donbas seriously discussed in the EU. But the decision is still pending. In an interview with “Today,” the MEP, which often happens in the Donbass, told how to force Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreements, and why the Germans should stop to cooperate with Russia, “Nord stream-2”.

Rebecca harms of the European Parliament supports the Ukrainians. AFP photo

– The European Parliament on 6 April gave the green light to Ukrainian bezveze. But we still expect a decision of COREPER and of the Council of the EU. But there is a danger that before the presidential elections in France these decisions, we will not see.

– The vast majority in the European Parliament voted for granting the visa-free regime to Ukraine. Ukrainians with us and we want you is the main message of the European Parliament to citizens of Ukraine. For me it was a beautiful day. I started to work on this issue many years ago. With some colleagues in the European Parliament, we tried again and again to provide visa-free access for Ukrainians to the EU. Over the past three years we have seen that this becomes a reality. However, I was disappointed when Georgia got visa-free travel, and Ukraine still has to wait. It was a good day for Georgia, but I am very worried about Ukraine. Now I am convinced that Ukrainians will be able to travel to the EU without visas since June.

– Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the Kyiv security forum, You stated that peacekeepers would help to ensure the truce in the Donbass.

– Fighting continues every day. Almost every day in this terrible war of Russia against Ukraine, people are dying. This is contrary to our interests. Awful to see that Minsk and many agreements on cease-fire did not stop the war. Ukraine needs peace, but Russia is still interested in fomenting war. As in Avdiivka after trump came to power (another escalation in the Donbas began in late January 2017, in February, Rebecca harms visited the frontline of the town – approx. ed.). Meanwhile, I think the only way out – to the UN peacekeeping mission guaranteed and controlled the so-called line of contact. I always emphasize that I am convinced that Ukraine needs to preserve and protect its territory from occupation. However, the people on the front lines continue to die. For Ukraine and especially for the Eastern part of Ukraine, it is important to stop the deaths. Whenever I spoke to the residents of Avdiivka, Marinka, along the line of contact, KPVV and residents of Slavyansk, as soon as the occupation ended, I received the same message. People want to live there, they want to return to a normal life. I don’t see a better way to achieve this than with the help of UN peacekeepers or the peacekeeping mission CSDP (common security policy and defence of the EU, which among other things provides for the possibility of deployment of police to peacekeeping missions in conflict areas – Ed.).

– Is there already some agreement reached on deployment of peacekeeping or police mission in the Donbass?

– There are discussions, but agreement yet. However, many politicians in the EU are dissatisfied with the results of the Minsk agreements. Most people I spoke to in Ukraine agree with the need to expand the UN mission.

That is, this issue in the EU discussed…

– Still need to assess how can be done the most important part of the Minsk agreements – the ceasefire. I don’t know how many times tried to establish a ceasefire at the talks in Minsk format. But it was never enforced. We need new answers. We have to evaluate how we can achieve a cease-fire. The best development for Ukrainians may happen only in case of establishment of the cease-fire. That is why I do not cease to repeat that the Ukrainians offered in the beginning of the talks in the Minsk format and the Minsk agreement. To stop fighting along the line of contact in Donbas, we need a strong mission of “blue helmets” of the UN or CSDP. It is also politically difficult, because it’s more like even more separation (in the Donbass occupied territory of Ukraine – Ed.). But the line of contact will never be accepted as the border.

Harms personally assessed the situation in Avdeevka. Photo press center of staff ATO

– Have you visited the Donbass, probably more often than some Ukrainian politicians. What impressed You most?

I was very impressed with the Ukrainian army and soldiers. I was in the city and the region of Slavyanka in a few weeks after the war began. Since that first visit I can see and understand the development of the Ukrainian army. I greatly admire the achievements of the soldiers and volunteers. Without them, Ukraine would be absolutely other country. When 2014 started a war against Ukraine, they defended their country in extremely difficult conditions, because the Ukrainian army did not work. During this time, the army is very developed. And hospitals, as in the river, which was the usual hospitals, adapted to the situation of war and can now save the lives of people to bring their horrific injuries. Such injuries and the doctors and nurses until 2014 had never seen. It’s just incredible, what could make the Ukrainians during these years of war, which forced them to Putin.

– You’ve seen all the “picture” of the war with my own eyes. You can guarantee that all the Europeans understand that in Ukraine full-scale war with Russia, and not a civil war?

– I really don’t understand why people are still talking about the civil war in the Donbass. Without Russian arms and soldiers there would be no occupation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It would be impossible. The involvement of Russian weapons, army and soldiers is a fact. Moreover, the output (the Russian – Ed.) weapons (and Russian regular units and mercenaries – Ed.) – part of the Minsk agreements. There’s no doubt about it. This means that Ukraine – the first neighboring country, which Russia has thrown down a military challenge, after the period, while Russia respected the European world order after the Second world war.

But from time to time we see articles in prestigious European and American publications about the “civil war” in Ukraine.

– Some journalists a bad attitude or a lack of understanding, some both. Some were victims of Russian propaganda, others believe in and support the Russian propaganda. I and many of my colleagues continually say that this is not a civil war, a war that started, fuelled and constantly supported by Russia. We see the Russian occupation, not only in Crimea, but the Donbass, which recently once again confirmed the recognition in Russia of passports (Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the recognition of Russian passports “DNR”/”LNR” – Ed.) and the introduction of the ruble (the introduction of the ruble zone in the occupied part of Donbas – Ed.).

– We see that Russia is not fulfilling the Minsk agreements. How can we punish her and force the Kremlin to fulfill their obligations?

– The EU should clearly state the situation: Russia has invaded, occupied and annexed Crimea, and Russia continues the occupation of the Donbass. And in this battle for the future of Ukraine and Europe, the Europeans should cease to doubt their own strategy. We decided that our response to Russia, which violates international law and the Budapest Memorandum, will not be military. But we used economic and personal sanctions. The EU is an economic superpower and can use its economic strength. Undoubtedly, this weakens the EU. The Germans should stop to conclude a major deal with Russian state companies such as Gazprom. As an example, take the “Nord stream-2”. This is a project that contributes to the financing of the Russian army. Profit of “Gazprom” will be used to increase the budget of the Russian army. It is not in the interests of Germany. Not in the interests of Germany or Europe to increase its energy imports from Russia, while the Kremlin uses its natural energy resources to expand their power and influence.

– The biggest problem of the Minsk agreements no Russia. There was no mention of the presence of Russian troops in the Donbas. It says on compulsory withdrawal “of foreign troops from the Donbas.”

– But the Russian, Ukrainian, German and French negotiators know the truth. This was discussed during a debate in the state Duma. You find clarity in statements by Vladimir Putin. Sometimes I am also very tired of this obvious split in the minds of Europeans. They hear news from Russia, everyone can follow the debates in the Duma. But when it comes to Minsk, they seem to forget that the President said to Putin or what he was talking about in the Duma.

– Can we try to rewrite Minsk agreements?

To rewrite them would be very difficult. However, you need to conduct a more honest assessment of the Minsk agreements. Instead, to achieve local elections (in Donbas – Ed.) The EU should insist on the establishment of a cease-fire as the initial priority. About the latest ceasefire agreed during the Munich security conference (where the meeting of foreign Ministers “Norman Quartet” – Ed.) under the auspices of the international community. And it was completely ignored. A few days after Munich I was witness to this development. What can we do to stop the ongoing war, stop the death of soldiers and civilians, to stop them from losing their children and their homes? Politicians in the West should act more seriously and needs to open their eyes. They need to closely monitor what is going on, before shaking hands with Lavrov, negotiating another ceasefire.

Some Ukrainian politicians and high-ranking officials have hinted that Russia took the path of slow annexation of the occupied part of Donbass.

During my last visit in Avdeevka, Russia decided to recognize the passports and documents issued by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”. In some areas of Donbass, they have already started to introduce the ruble. A few days later they “nationalized” Ukrainian enterprises in Donetsk and Lugansk. All of this violates the Minsk agreement. The EU, Berlin and Paris must take this very seriously. And this must have its consequences. Undoubtedly, this is another reason not to weaken, but to extend sanctions. And this is another good reason to think about the mission of “blue helmets” of the UN.

– Can we expect any changes in the “Norman format” in the near future?

– Already have a kind of change. The EU was included in the Minsk process.

But the EU was enabled through Germany and France…

– France, Germany and the EU represented by EU high representative for foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.

– Join to this format, for example, the States?

– I’m not sure. A few weeks ago, I really doubt the position of President of trump in relation to Russia and Ukraine. It is changing, but he (trump – Ed.) is still unpredictable. Really very difficult to understand the new US President. However, before the election, trump’s main reliable partner of the Europeans and the Ukrainians in Washington was not only the presidential Administration but also other institutions (Congress, the Senate – Ed.). Therefore, in the US there are institutions that we can rely on.

– It seems that the relationship between the tramp and Merkel “colder” than between Merkel and Obama…

– President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have become real friends. This rarely happens between politicians. You might feel these good relations, when they spied on their meetings. Now the situation is completely different. Merkel is a completely different character, comparing with trump. She grew up in the GDR in poor conditions. She is a scientist (graduated in physics at the Leipzig University, he defended his thesis, he worked at the Central Institute of physical chemistry Academy of Sciences of the GDR – Ed.) while his (tramp – Ed.) the profession is hard to describe. Becoming one of the most important and influential political leaders of the world, she always was close to normal people and normal life. Compare it to the farmhouse in the countryside near Berlin residence (tramp – Ed.) Mar-a-Lago in Florida. I think for her first meeting with trump was a real experience.

– You also said that trump for Europe a greater threat than Putin. Why?

– Many Europeans in the West, the EU that were not so knowledgeable about military strategy Putin’s attitude to the neighboring countries, saw that the tramp became a friend of Putin. They were very confident in the trump. Also they have created new doubts about Putin because of trump. Trump woke them up and they changed their attitude to Putin. It’s a little weird, but it was. Trump is also close to the new nationalists and anti-European leaders such as Nigel Farage of the British national party (a supporter of Brexit, urged the Dutch to vote in the referendum against the Agreement on Association with Ukraine – Ed.). Trump supported Brexit, he even went to Britain to support the referendum. Marine Le Pen traveled to Washington to show how it is close to Trump.

– And in Russia it went…

– She was in Russia. So all nationalists are right-wing, anti-European parties have shown that they like Donald trump, and Vladimir Putin. And victory trump they believe the prediction of his future victories. So the Westerner, like me, there are good reasons for suspicion on the background of bundles of trump, Putin, Le Pen, Farage, Wilders (the leader of the Dutch propranol freedom Party – Ed.) and other extremists. I am also very leery of Mr. Manafort as one of those who did (election Auth.) campaign for trump (he was the head of his headquarters, but after the scandal resigned – Ed.). I first learned about it when he supported Yanukovich in Ukraine. He worked on the image of Yanukovych and contributed to his election (in 2010 – Ed.).

In late July, the EU will once again renew the sanctions against Russia. The Kremlin has already launched an information campaign to weaken or lift the sanctions in the EU?

The Europeans would be crazy if I refused to sanction, without a lasting ceasefire in the Donbass and without the return of the Ukrainian control over the border. It would ruin the reliability of the EU, if the EU Council voted against the sanctions regime in such a situation. But I am convinced that the sanctions will continue.

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