"Russia is the aggressor, but Ukraine must implement the Minsk agreements"

"Even if Russia is clearly violating the Statute of the Council of Europe and its accession commitments, and even more, if Russia is the aggressor, in line with the provisions of the UN Charter and General Assembly Resolution 3314, this does not dispense Ukraine from its own obligation to take steps to implement the Package of Measures recently agreed in Minsk and secure long-term peace and stability," Kristýna Zelienková (Czech Republic, ALDE) underlines in an information note on her recent fact-finding visit to Kyiv, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk.

"A comprehensive constitutional reform, including decentralisation, is not only the basis of all other necessary reforms, it is also of key importance for the long-term success of any resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and is explicitly mentioned in the document signed in Minsk on 12 February", she says. "All my interlocutors were unanimous: they could convince the population and also the representatives in the eastern regions to work together towards a peaceful political settlement, along the lines agreed in Minsk, provided that Russia stopped interfering. Russia's involvement is not only limited to the provision of heavy weaponry and fighters but is also present in the line of command and policy decision making. It is also evidenced in the form of an extensive propaganda war", adds Ms Zelienkova.

In her information note, she recalls that as PACE rapporteur on the political consequences of the crisis in Ukraine, she had reiterated the Assembly's position in favour of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and underlined that it was essential that Ukraine regain full control of its borders, whilst recalling the importance of a political and peaceful solution. "The improvement of the economic situation depends both on the peaceful settlement of the conflict and on reforms. However, at many instances and by various interlocutors, I heard that Ukraine also needed military support for defensive purposes."

Recalling that 16 March marked the one year anniversary of Crimea's annexation by the Russian Federation, the Rapporteur concludes: "As long as the illegal annexation of Crimea is not reversed, there can be no return to business as usual in relations with the Russian Federation and in particular no lifting of sanctions imposed on it by various bodies, including our Assembly, precisely in response to this illegal annexation".