What was Ukraine's February 21 agreement?

6th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday he and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that Ukraine should uphold a deal signed two weeks ago between now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition.

The existence of such a position was denied by American side and it was not immediately clear how Russia wanted to enforce a deal that appears to have been overtaken by events and that it had not even signed.

So what was the February 21 deal and why is Russia referring to it now?

Who signed the deal?

The deal was signed in Kiev by then president Yanukovych and the three main opposition leaders of Ukraine -- Vitaly Klitschko of the UDAR party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Batkyvshchina (Fatherland party) and Oleg Tyagnybok of Svoboda (Freedom party).

Signing as witnesses were the three foreign ministers who brokered the deal: Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland and Laurent Fabius of France. Russia did not sign although there was space for the signature of its representative.

What was the aim of the deal?

The prime aim of the deal was to end an upsurge of violence in Kiev that left dozens dead. The deal's signatories say they are "concerned with the tragic loss of life and seeking an immediate end to bloodshed". However in circumstances that still need to be fully explained, Yanukovych later that evening left Kiev and eventually fled to Russia.

Did Russia sign the deal?

Russia sent an envoy to the talks, its human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin. But he did not sign along with the other foreign diplomats. Russia said that when he joined the negotiations they were almost completed but insisted the lack of signature did not mean they were against the compromise.

What does the deal say?

It says the signatories agreed to restore the constitution of 2004, which gives the president less powers. It also says a national unity government should be formed and presidential elections held no later than December 2014.

There should be an investigation into the violence and all illegal weapons should be handed in, it added. There should be no confrontation and the government should use law enforcement forces just for the protection of official buildings.

Has the agreement been implemented?

Parliament voted to return to the 2004 constitution immediately after the deal was signed. However, the post-Yanukovych government could in no way be described as one of national unity, given almost all its members are either Batkyvshchina or Svoboda representatives, or representatives of the protest movement.

Also the points on "normalisation of life" and "illegal carrying of weapons" could hardly apply to Crimea which is currently controlled by pro-Russia forces.

There is not a word in the agreement about Yanukovych himself, who Russia still considers Ukraine's legitimate president while recognising he has lost all authority.

Presidential elections are planned in Ukraine in May, far earlier than envisaged but not contradicting the agreement.

Why is Russia going back to this deal now?

Moscow may be wanting to push the West into extracting concessions from the new Ukrainian leadership, which Russia has accused of being extremist. In general, the Russians also tend to be sticklers for diplomatic protocol and like referring back to agreements. Their entire Syria policy is based on the Geneva communique of June 2012 that has long been forgotten in many Western capitals.

© 2014 AFP

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