On October 1 President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukraine had agreed to adopt the so-called Steinmeier formula in an effort to end the war in eastern Ukraine. Making the announcement Zelensky emphasized that Donbas local elections can only be held in accordance with Ukrainian law and only after the withdrawal of troops from the occupied territories and subject to Ukraine resuming control over its state border with Russia.
The Steinmeier formula is a formula put forth in 2016 during a meeting of the Normandy format by then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – holding elections in the occupied territories in accordance with Ukrainian law and under the supervision of the OSCE. After the elections, provided the OSCE recognizes them as free and fair, Ukraine grants the region special local self-government status and retakes control of its eastern state borders.
(The Normandy format, also known as the Normandy contact group or the Normandy Four, is a diplomatic group of senior representatives of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France to resolve the war in Eastern Ukraine.)
Russian media quickly reacted to the announcement, calling it a Russian success, the correct step, and a victory of common sense, claiming that Kyiv had fulfilled all of Moscow’s conditions and the agreement was not vetted by the United States. Russian State Duma deputy Anton Morozov declared that the US is interested in prolonging the conflict in eastern Ukraine in order to pressure Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote that the ministry hopes this step will create an appropriate atmosphere for the further implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Commission on Information Policy senator Aleksey Pushkov called the signing “our serious success” and announced that all of Moscow’s terms had been met.
Meanwhile Russia’s Defense Ministry website Zvezda published the reaction of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov who said that President Zelensky was trying to set conditions that were not part of the Minsk accords purely for political reasons as “the nationalists have already raised a howl in Ukrainian media” against Ukraine agreeing to the Steinmeier proposal.
Russian media is portraying Ukraine as the losing side in this matter, a party that has fulfilled all conditions without demanding anything in return, having been convinced by the West to accept the Steinmeier formula.
Russian newspaper Vzglyad focuses on the reaction of the Ukrainian opposition headed by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Referring to the last five years of Poroshenko rule as the era of the “party of war”, Vzglyad predicts any opposition protests against the Steinmeier arrangement will be doomed to failure. To support its prediction of doomed protests, Vzglyad cites former deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Andrey , who claims that today’s Ukraine is so overrun by security services that Zelensky, unlike Yanukovych in 2013, has nothing to fear.
RT draws attention to protests that erupted in Kyiv shortly after Zelensky’s announced the Steinmeier agreement. Because the country’s leadership controls the financing of radical groups in Ukraine, they can easily be put in their place and be dealt with accordingly, RT concludes.
Russian media also extensively covered the positions of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR, LNR) regarding Ukraine’s decision to go with the Steinmeier formula. In a statement DNR boss Dennis Pushilin and LNR chief Leonid Pasechnik said the move “recognizes the special right of the Donbas people to determine their fate independently”.
“We will decide what language to speak, what our economy will be like, how our judicial system will be formed, how our people’s police will protect our citizens and how we will integrate with Russia” their statement reads. Pushilin and Pasechnik go out of their way to say that Zelensky is in no position to dictate terms to them and dispute that Ukraine will regain control over its eastern state border.
The Russian supported separatist DNR and LNR enclaves appear to have no intention of abiding by any proposed formula, Steinmeier or otherwise. They have already publicized a “personal interpretation” of the Steinmeier formula, claiming that in order for the proposal to be fully realized, Kyiv must enact constitutional changes, amend the 2015 law on the status of the Donbas to make Russian the state language of the region, create a separate judicial and law enforcement system, outline contractual relations with Kyiv and cooperation with Russia and more.