What's In Blue

Posted Tue 1 Jun 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on Ukraine via VTC

Tomorrow morning (2 June), Russia will convene an Arria-formula meeting via videoconference (VTC) on the situation in Ukraine titled “The circumstances of Maidan and its after-effects in Donbas”. The expected briefers are Mykola Azarov, former Prime Minister of Ukraine; Oleg Tsaryov, former member of the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada); Vladimir Oleynik, former Rada member; Dean O’Brien, a British freelance photographer who documents the situation in the Donbas region; and Anne-Laure Bonnel, a French journalist and filmmaker. The meeting will be broadcast on UNTV at 10 am EST.

According to the concept note prepared by Russia, the meeting will provide an opportunity for members to hear first-hand accounts of the events that took place during the Maidan protests in 2014 and the ensuing conflict in the Donbas region. One of the stated objectives for the meetings is to enhance the understanding of how developments in Ukraine in 2014 affected the current situation in the country.

So far in 2021, the Council has held one formal meeting on the situation in Ukraine. Following a request by Russia, the Council convened for a briefing on 11 February to mark the anniversary of the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”—also known as the Minsk II agreement, which was adopted on 12 February 2015—and to discuss its implementation. Tomorrow’s meeting will be the fourth Arria-formula meeting this year focusing on different aspects of the situation in Ukraine. Russia has organised three of these meetings, while one was organised by Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US.

In the initial phases of the conflict, especially in 2014 and 2015, Council members regularly convened formal meetings on the situation in Ukraine. In recent years, the frequency of Council meetings on Ukraine has decreased and most discussions of the issue have been taking place in closed or informal meetings such as consultations, under “any other business” and in Arria-formula meetings. Council members have also discussed the situation in Ukraine in the context of the annual briefing by the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and in the annual Council meeting on UN-EU cooperation.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, elected Council members and the P3 (France, the UK and the US) have developed a practice of holding Arria-formula meetings on certain aspects of the situation in Ukraine, mainly on the situation in Crimea. Russia has opposed any Council discussion on the situation in Crimea, which it considers part of its territory. During the first six years of the conflict, Russia refrained from using the Arria-formula format to address the situation in Ukraine.

In May 2020, Russia organised its first Arria-formula meeting on Ukraine. Russia described the meeting as a “follow-up” to the 6 March 2020 Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in Crimea organised by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US in partnership with Ukraine. Since then, Russia has used the Arria-formula format three additional times to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Council members whose positions are aligned with that of Ukraine have criticised Russia for using Arria-formula meetings to present a false narrative of the situation in Ukraine. These members have used these meetings to reiterate their established position that Russia is violating international law by annexing Crimea and by interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs.