Situation in Ukraine - What is France doing ?

The conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation began in 2014 and continues today.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 13,000 people have lost their lives and 25,000 have been wounded since 2014. A total of 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their place of residence to other regions in Ukraine and approximately 1 million refugees have moved to bordering countries. Donbass has become one of the world’s most mine-filled zones , together with Afghanistan and Iraq.

Conflict background

The conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation broke out amid a political crisis Ukraine in late November 2013. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to suspend the process leading to the signature of an Association Agreement with the European Union caused a “revolution of dignity” (Euromaidan).

In Crimea, masked Russian soldiers without insignia began action to take control of all the strategic points in the region. On 16 March 2014, a referendum for independence and annexation to the Russian Federation was held. The international community did not recognize this annexation.

At the same time, a destabilization operation was launched in eastern Ukraine. Armed groups without insignia under Russian control supported the demonstrators calling for the independence of these regions. On 11 May, the de facto entities of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and of the “Luhansk People’s Republic” declared their independence following the “referendum”. This vote, held outside of the framework established by Ukrainian legislation and marred by a number of irregularities, was considered illegal by Ukraine and was not recognized by the international community (including the Russian Federation).

France supported the European Union’s sanctions in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine.

The Minsk agreements aiming to end the conflict

Diplomatic negotiations began in June 2014. The 6 June 1944 D-Day Commemorations provided an opportunity to start diplomatic discussions between the Ukrainian and Russian Presidents under the auspices of the President of the French Republic and German Chancellor in the Normandy (N4) Format.

Negotiations were also launched in Minsk in the Trilateral Contact Group with representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as well as separatists (representatives of “certain regions of Luhank and Donetsk oblasts”).

On 5 September 2014, the Trilateral Contact Group parties present signed the Minsk Protocol (Minsk I): 13 security and political measures that aim to end the conflict.

On 11 and 12 February 2015, the Summit of Heads of State and Government in the Normandy Format met in Minsk. The Trilateral Contact Group parties signed the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements (Minsk II).

Minsk II sets out the operational stages for implementing Minsk I and resolving the conflict. Its intention is to advance the security situation on the ground and the political process jointly without preconditions. Ultimately, its aim is for the separatist-held zones to be re-integrated under Ukrainian sovereignty with decentralized organization.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2202, which was adopted on 17 February 2015, endorsed the Package of Measures and called for its full implementation.

The situation in 2019

The adoption of Minsk II resulted in a significant drop in the number of victims, with three-quarters of the approximately 13,000 deaths caused by the conflict occurring before the adoption of the Package. But the crisis persists due to the parties’ lack of political will to deliver on their commitments. Tensions continue to fuel the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

In Crimea, Ukraine has not managed to fully restore its sovereignty and its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

In eastern Ukraine, sham “elections” were held on 11 November 2018 in violation of the Minsk agreement to elect “presidents” of self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. Repeated violations of ceasefires directly threaten civilian populations and the humanitarian situation remains unstable.

In late 2018, tensions between Russia and Ukraine grew following the naval incident south of the Kerch Strait. Russian forces captured 24 Ukrainian sailors.

France’s position

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 calls for the release of all persons detained in violation of international law.

France has a policy of firmness and dialogue to move towards a political settlement of the conflict.

France instigated the diplomatic exchanges of June 2014. The most recent meeting of the Normandy Format foreign ministers took place in June 2018. Regular high-level contact has been maintained with a view to concluding negotiations on the security, humanitarian and political aspects of the Minsk agreements.

France and Germany remain fully committed to the Minsk agreements within the framework of the Normandy Format, which are the only way forward in terms of resolving the conflict.

France’s support for Ukraine

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 is fully committed to support for Ukraine provided in the European framework. In 2018, it contributed €600,000 in humanitarian assistance, which has been used to renovate critical infrastructure in eastern Ukraine and to provide assistance to vulnerable populations. 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.

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, 2015-2016 and 2019. 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).

Updated: May 2019