Debate: Donbas 5 years after the Minsk Agreements
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the prospects for resolving the conflict in Donbas were the subject of a discussion organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) on 22 November in Warsaw. The discussion was attended by special guests Hanna Shelest (Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism), Oleg Ignatov (Centre for Current Policy), Marek Menkiszak (Centre for Eastern Studies), and Andras Racz (German Council on Foreign Relations). They discussed the state of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, the role of the Normandy Format talks in the peace process, and the possible impact of the Steinmeier Formula on the situation in Ukraine. Particular attention was paid to the consequences of the war in Ukraine for European security.
22 NOV 2019
Sheraton Warsaw Hotel

During the debate, differences of opinions emerged regarding the possibility of reaching an agreement between Ukraine and Russia. Ignatov pointed to Russia’s rigid negotiating position, arguing that the Russian authorities expect Ukraine to first introduce a “special status” for Donbas and hold local elections on territories currently outside the control of the government in Kyiv. In turn, Shelest emphasized the priority of withdrawing Russian soldiers from Donbas and ensuring appropriate security conditions for holding elections there. The speakers agreed that the forthcoming Normandy format summit (scheduled for December) will not bring any breakthrough in the negotiations. In these circumstances, Racz and Menkiszak said a strategy of “small steps” should be employed, which assumes gaining gradual concessions from both Russia and Ukraine that lead to de-escalation and freezing the conflict in the longer run.

After the debate, PISM organised a closed expert workshop with the participation of analysts from EU countries, Ukraine, and Russia. The discussion was focused on the “quasi-states” in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, including their internal situation, the role of external actors, and the prospects of settling the ongoing conflicts.

The public discussion, as well as the experts workshop, took place within the project “Europe’s External Action and the Dual Challenges of Limited Statehood and Contested Orders” (EU-LISTCO), funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project examines the challenges stemming from the existence of these areas of limited statehood (ALS) and contested orders (CO) in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood. PISM is a member of the project’s research consortium.


Donbas 5 years after the Minsk Agreements

22 November (Friday), 9:30-12:00

Sheraton Warsaw Hotel

Grand Ballroom (CDE)

Bolesława Prusa Street 2, Warsaw


09:00-09:30       Registration

09:30-10:00       Introductory session. Welcoming remarks

  • Patrycja Sasnal, Head of Research Office, Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Agnieszka Legucka, Principal Investigator of EU-LISTCO project, Polish Institute
    of International Affairs

10:00-12:00       Donbas 5 Years After Minsk Agreements

  • What have we learned from the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in the context of the EU`s security?
  • Where are we with the Minsk Agreements?
  • What is the role of the “Normandy Four” in the conflict negotiations?
  • What impact on the situation in Ukraine and Donbas can the Steinmeier formula have?


  • Oleg Ignatov, Centre for Current Policy (Russia)
  • Marek Menkiszak, Center for Eastern Studies (Poland)
  • Andras Racz, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (Germany)
  • Hanna Shelest, Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism (Ukraine)
  • Moderator: Daniel Szeligowski, Polish Institute of International Affairs

12:00–13:00      Lunch
Mezzano Restaurant

This discussion is part of the project Europe's External Action and the Dual Challenges of Limited Statehood and Contested Orders—EU-LISTCO*

* This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 769886