France’s position on the situation in Ukraine

Objective: the implementation of the Minsk agreements

In September 2014, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, separatist movements and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) made commitments in Minsk (“MINSK I”) to support a settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. A Package of Measures aimed at implementing these commitments was adopted in Minsk on 12 February 2015 in the Normandy format, which brings together France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. This resulted in a significant drop in the number of victims, with three-quarters of the approximately 10,000 deaths caused by the conflict occurring before the adoption of the Package.

Minsk Package of Measures of 12 February 2015 (“MINSK II”)

The Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements sets down the sequence for settling the conflict. The spirit of the agreement is to move forward together, without preconditions, to improve the security situation on the ground and the political process aimed at reintegrating separatist-controlled areas within Ukrainian sovereignty under a decentralized model.

The Package of Measures was negotiated in the Normandy format by the Heads of State and Government, who adopted it in a joint declaration. It was signed by the Trilateral Contact Group, which brings together Ukraine, Russia, the OSCE and representatives of the separatist “republics”. United Nations Security Council resolution 2202, adopted on 17 February 2015, called for the full implementation of this Package.

Method: firmness and dialogue

France has adopted a policy of firmness and dialogue with a view to moving towards a political resolution of the conflict.

  • Firmness: Based on the principle that borders in Europe cannot be changed by force with impunity, the European Union has adopted individual and sectoral sanctions aimed at Russian and Crimean organizations, businesses and individuals. At the European Council meeting of 14 December 2018, the sectoral sanctions against Russia were extended for a further six months.
  • Dialogue: During the ceremonies commemorating the 70ᵗʰ anniversary of the Normandy Landings in June 2014, France instigated a meeting with Germany, Ukraine and Russia, which marked the beginning of the conflict settlement process. The most recent meeting of the Normandy Format foreign ministers took place in June 2018. Regular high-level contact has been maintained (between diplomatic advisers, deputy advisers and political directors) with a view to concluding negotiations on the security, humanitarian and political aspects of the Minsk agreements.

A commitment to solidarity

Since 2014, France has provided several kinds of assistance to Ukraine: emergency humanitarian and medical assistance, assistance for displaced persons, and support for the implementation of reforms. It contributes fully to the support provided to Ukraine within the European framework. In 2018, France contributed €600,000 in humanitarian assistance, which has been used to renovate critical infrastructure in eastern Ukraine (a waste-water treatment plant in Popasna, next to the contact line, and a school in Krasnohorivka, two kilometres from the front line, both of which were damaged during fighting) and provide assistance to vulnerable populations (in the form of pharmacy coupons and essential goods). In January 2019, to help improve the production and distribution of drinking water in conflict-affected areas, Ukraine and France signed an agreement which included building a new water treatment plant in Mariupol, a port city with around 400,000 residents that has been severely impacted by the upsurge in tensions in the Sea of Azov and Russian restrictions on freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait. Under this agreement, France agreed to lend Ukraine approximately €64 million, on very favourable terms, so it could carry out this ambitious pilot project.

This solidarity is also visible within the OSCE framework: France took part in election observation missions organized by the Organization’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in 2014. During local elections in late 2015, France provided ODIHR with 25 observers, including five long-term observers and 20 short-term observers. For the Ukrainian presidential elections (the first round took place on 31 March 2019), France is again contributing to the ODIHR election observation mission, providing 8 long-term observers and 32 short-term observers. In addition, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) has 17 French observers, who have been present in the field since the start of the conflict (primarily in the east of the country, but also in other regions).

Situation Report – March 2019

Eastern Ukraine

France condemned the so-called “elections” held in eastern Ukraine on 11 November 2018. It did not recognize the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk chosen on this date. At the Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 10 December, France supported new individual sanctions against the people directly involved.

France is extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine and repeated ceasefire violations, which directly threaten civilians on both sides of the contact line. It deplores that the new ceasefire agreement, adopted on 8 March, was immediately violated, despite its calls for a robust and lasting ceasefire.

France urges the parties to quickly adopt measures to support people in these regions, including measures allowing civilians to cross the contact line, guaranteeing the protection of critical infrastructure, and paving the way for ordnance clearance operations. France and Germany remain fully committed to the Minsk agreements in the framework of the Normandy format, which are the only way forward in terms of settling the conflict.

The Autonomous Republic of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol

Five years after the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, France remains firmly committed to fully re-establishing Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. France does not and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea: the redrawing of international borders by force is a breach of international law and of the commitments made by the Russian Federation.

France deplores the worsening of the human rights situation in the peninsula, which especially affects the Crimean Tatars. It condemns all forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion, and calls for all those who have been imprisoned in violation of international law to be freed. France also calls for the preservation and protection of Crimea’s historical and cultural heritage.

The Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait

In late 2018, tensions between Russia and Ukraine grew following the naval incident south of the Kerch Strait on 25 November. France condemned Russia’s unlawful use of force against Ukrainian ships. At a bilateral meeting between the French and Russian foreign ministers in Paris on 27 November, it called for the 24 imprisoned sailors to be freed as soon as possible and without conditions, and for the three seized ships to be returned. France remains strongly committed to freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as well as freedom of passage in the Kerch Strait. It supported individual sanctions against eight people directly involved in the serious incident on 25 November.

Updated: March 2019