‘The reality is that Ukraine has lost Donbass’

It is too late for decentralization, as E. Ukraine’s self-defense forces want full independence from Kiev after its bloody military campaign, international law expert Alexander Mercouris told RT. Kiev now needs a ceasefire because it’s losing, he argued.

On Friday, Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire as the contact group met behind closed doors in Belarus.

Commenting on the ceasefire, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “We are ready to provide the significant steps, including decentralization of power.”

However, following the deaths and damage caused by Kiev's military offensive, Mercouris believes that decentralization is no longer an option for Eastern Ukrainians.

RT:Is decentralization possible in these current circumstances?

Alexander Mercouris: I don’t think there is any prospect of that at all. The people who are resisting the Ukrainian government have made quite clear that their objective is full independence from Ukraine. If decentralization was proposed in March or April, possibly many people in eastern Ukraine, in this area of Donbass which has been fighting, would have accepted it. After all the killing and all the destruction, I don’t think there are any takers for that plan. And I think, frankly, the reality is that Ukraine has lost Donbass.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on an armoured vehicle in the southern coastal town of Mariupol September 5, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

RT:How big of a role are Russia and Kiev’s western allies playing in all of this?

AM: In terms of Russia, I don’t think there is any doubt at all that it is playing a certain political role. However, the important thing to understand about the negotiations that happened today is that they were between the Ukrainian government and the people it is fighting in the east. It was not between the Ukrainian government and Russia. President Poroshenko a couple of days ago tried to make a ceasefire agreement with the Russians and Mr. Putin would have none of it, because the Russian position is that they are not involved in this conflict. If one goes to the other side of the equation – to the Western powers – their policy throughout has been to support the Ukrainian government as it tried to suppress the people of the east. They have pretended in May, June, and July to negotiate with Russians' various peace plans. But in reality they only became interested in a peace proposal when it became clear that the Ukrainians were going to lose and when it also became clear that there was no support in the West for a military action to help the Ukrainians.

RT:Is decentralization possible in these current circumstances?

Alexander Mercouris: I don’t think there is any prospect of that at all. The people who are resisting the Ukrainian government have made quite clear that their objective is full independence from Ukraine. If decentralization was proposed in March or April, possibly many people in eastern Ukraine, in this area of Donbass which has been fighting, would have accepted it. After all the killing and all the destruction, I don’t think there are any takers for that plan. And I think, frankly, the reality is that Ukraine has lost Donbass.

A man walks on rubble near an apartment block damaged by what locals say was shelling by Ukrainian forces in Donetsk, September 4, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

RT:How big of a role are Russia and Kiev’s western allies playing in all of this?

AM: In terms of Russia, I don’t think there is any doubt at all that it is playing a certain political role. However, the important thing to understand about the negotiations that happened today is that they were between the Ukrainian government and the people it is fighting in the east. It was not between the Ukrainian government and Russia. President Poroshenko a couple of days ago tried to make a ceasefire agreement with the Russians and Mr. Putin would have none of it, because the Russian position is that they are not involved in this conflict. If one goes to the other side of the equation – to the Western powers – their policy throughout has been to support the Ukrainian government as it tried to suppress the people of the east. They have pretended in May, June, and July to negotiate with Russians' various peace plans. But in reality they only became interested in a peace proposal when it became clear that the Ukrainians were going to lose and when it also became clear that there was no support in the West for a military action to help the Ukrainians.

RT:Some of the Western media have been spinning this truce in a completely different way. Take for instance CNN, they just said that Poroshenko laid out a peace plan with Russia. Is that how you see it?

AM: They are spinning it completely wrong. The fact of the matter is that Russians have never said they are interested in annexing Donbass. They have made it absolutely clear, right from the outset, all the way back in February, that what should be is a ceasefire and constitutional negotiations between the parties. Back in April and May, they were even suggesting federalization and decentralization. So, to argue that it is the Russians who wanted to annex eastern Ukraine, and Mr. Poroshenko is somehow ruling that out, is simply to turn reality entirely on its head. And one wonders how long this could be sustained for anyway. The reality is that decentralization might have been possible in April and May when the Russians supported it. It is far less likely when the Russians and the local people no longer do.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.