Updated at 22:06,23-05-2018

Minsk talks at impasse as separatists demand concessions while Russian army strikes

Belsat via Ian Bateson, Katya Gorchinskaya, Kyivpost

The Sept. 1 trilateral talks in Minsk have so far failed to yield results. Officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - a party participating in negotiations and only international player - said the situation is currently all but impossible to resolve.

“We can truly imagine some very dark scenarios now,” OSCE Chairman Didier Burkhalter told a Swiss TV station, adding “the risks of escalation are very, very numerous.”

Ukraine, representatives of the self-proclaimed republics in the country's east and the OSCE have agreed to meet again on Sept. 5 for the next round of talks. They are set to discuss a potential ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, according to Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of 'the Donetsk People’s Republic'.

But that is about the only agreement this diplomatic effort achieved.

Prior to the meeting of the Contact Group, Russian-supported separatists demanded extensive concessions in exchange for keeping the territory they control nominally within the Ukrainian state. The representatives of the separatist republics demanded special autonomous status for their republics, for the Russian language and special economic status that would allow them to join the Russian led Customs Union. Separatists leaders also want amnesty for their fighters, special status for their military units, and the right to appoint judges and prosecutors. Ukraine would be responsible for rebuilding, but have little say in how things would be run.

The terms are highly unappealing to the Ukrainians government, but come at a time when Ukraine is hard pressed to find a diplomatic solution as Ukrainian forces lose ground following pro-Russian forces entering the previously peaceful southern Donetsk Region from Russia and push towards the port city of Mariupol.

“This is an initial stage. It can hardly end with something drastically big,” said Purgin.

In the contact group Ukraine is represented by former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia by its ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, and the OSCE by its chairperson-in-office on Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini. The self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic has its chairman of the Supreme Council Valery Karyakin in Minsk to participate in consultations.

The Minsk talks come as Ukraine accuses Russia of a full-scale invasion. Ukraine's Defense Minister Valeriy Heletei said that Russia has lost the so-called “hybrid war” with Ukraine, and has opted for a full-scale invasion. He said Ukraine needs to change its military strategy in response to Russia's move.