Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first president, took charge of Ukraine’s delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine on July 30.
Kravchuk, 86, was appointed by the President’s Office to lead Ukraine’s side at the peace talks in Minsk after ex-President Leonid Kuchma, 81, resigned from the post two days prior.
The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine includes representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and was formed to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region after it was invaded by Russia in 2014.
Before his resignation, Kuchma had been representing Ukraine in Minsk for five years.
“If I can do something to speed up the peace process in the Donbas, I will do it until my last breath,” said Kravchuk.
The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine has been meeting regularly since June 2014 without substantial results.
On Sept. 5, 2014, members of the group signed the so-called Minsk Protocol, a twelve-point agreement meant to stop the war in the Donbas and reintegrate the occupied territories back into Ukraine, giving them autonomy from Kyiv.
However, peace wasn’t met. Russian-backed forces made further advances in the Battle of Debaltseve, killing over 200 Ukrainian soldiers.
Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine prompted the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia — known as the Normandy Four — to negotiate a new agreement. On Feb. 12, 2015, the agreement commonly knows as Minsk II was drafted in Minsk.
Since then, the Trilateral Contact Group has mainly focused on moving forward with the second Minsk protocol with no result.
On July 22, the Trilateral Contact Group agreed to implement a new ceasefire starting on July 27. The ceasefire was breached within less than an hour.
The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine maintains a semi-official status. Ukraine and Russia are represented by former officials with no legal status.
Prior to taking the job, Kravchuk was in retirement for 14 years.
At the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kravchuk was the chairman of Ukraine’s Soviet Socialist Republic. It was Kravchuk who proclaimed Ukraine’s independence on Aug. 24, 1991.
Then, on Dec. 1, 1991, Kravchuk won Ukraine’s first presidential elections. However, his term was cut short. In 1994, after several months of political instability, Kravchuk proclaimed snap presidential elections.
During the 1994 presidential elections runoff, Kravchuk lost to Kuchma. Since then, Kravchuk was elected to parliament three times, eventually retiring from politics in 2006.
Kravchuk often appeared on television as a political commentator. He also served as a mediator between government and opposition forces during several political conflicts, including during the 2013–2014 EuroMaidan Revolution that led to the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
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