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Ukrainian FM on Donbas: 'Security should be there and Russia should be out'

While Ukraine struggles to implement key conditions of the Minsk agreements, its foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, called on Russia to leave Donbas in an exclusive DW interview. 

Watch video 26:03

Conflict Zone with Pavlo Klimkin

"My fundamental point [is that] security should be there and Russia should be out, in order to get Donbas back into Ukraine," Klimkin told DW. 

He said Western sanctions on Moscow should remain in place until Russia is "literally out of Ukraine." Allowing Russia to attack an independent country would be like "opening Pandora's box."

In an attempt to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, both Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists from Donetsk and Luhansk signed the Minsk II settlement in February 2015. Today, key aspects of the agreement, such as the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the exchange of prisoners, have yet to be implemented. But Klimkin told DW's Tim Sebastian on Conflict Zone that these failures do not mean the agreement is dead, adding that "Minsk is simple and easy, if you want to implement it."

"Fundamental differences"

"We have fundamental differences with Russia on how we understand Minsk," Klimkin said. "Russia wants to legalize [a] Russian protectorate in Donbas."

Pavlo Klimkin Ukraine (Imago)

Pavlo Klimkin is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. He was the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany from 2012 to 2013.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, heavily armed separatists, backed by Moscow took over parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, they declared themselves independent republics. Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed in the fighting to suppress the separatists. Kyiv and Western countries have said Russian volunteers and regular troops actively support pro-Russian separatists. While the sound of heavy artillery has subsided in eastern Ukraine, a solid ceasefire is not yet in sight.

Both the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions against Moscow and have also called for reforms in Ukraine.

Another central element of Minsk II is a constitutional reform in Ukraine to grant formal autonomy to the separatist regions. The first vote in August 2015 was overshadowed by violent protests, and the second has been postponed. 

Will the EU lift sanctions on Russia?

In September 2016, US Vice President Joe Biden warned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that unless Kyiv lives up to the promises of economic and political reforms, the EU may lift sanctions on Russia.

"Everybody’s willing to blame the victim, and you better straighten up and fly right," Biden said.

When asked by Sebastian how long sanctions against Russia should continue, particularly as they affect European and American business interests, Klimkin replied, "Sanctions should be there until Russia is literally out of Ukraine."

Ukraine Panzer in erhöhter Gefechtsbereitschaft (Ausschnitt) (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Shulman)

Despite fighting, Klimkin said, the Minsk agreement is not dead

Sebastian also addressed another major issue in Ukraine: corruption. In a recent visit, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker urged Kyiv to step up its anti-corruption efforts, saying, "You have to take action now."

Transparency International said despite "assurances that Ukrainian politicians want to fight corruption, in reality the opposite is true."

In the DW interview, Klimkin denied the charge and said his government was, indeed, battling corruption and "delivering" results.

"I'm absolutely encouraged [by] what has been done on state enterprises in the sense of real reforms," Klimkin added. "I know reformists, including the deputy ministers in our Ministry of Economy, who have been working consistently on transforming the whole way how the state enterprises are governed."

The full interview will be available online from 1730 UTC on October 5. 

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