Photo by Olga Tanasiichuk

"Autumn Talks" 2016

"Is there a way out between principles and pragmatism? Perspectives of a European conflict resolution in eastern Ukraine"

Tuesday, 8th of November 2016, 15.30-23.00

Organisator: The German-Russian Exchange, Heinrich-Boell- Foundation
Venue: Auditorium Friedrichstraße, Berlin

The efforts to regulate the conflict in eastern Ukraine are at a dead end. Almost on a daily basis human lives are lost in military clashes along the contact zone. This conflict in eastern Ukraine, however, is about more than territorial or other preferences of the local population, the conflict is not first and foremost intra-Ukrainian in nature. It is the Russian government that openly questions the sovereignty of Ukraine and the functioning of the European security order. To strengthen its inner political position, the idea of the hostile western neighbour is propagated; meanwhile denying its military involvement in Donbas.

It is thanks to massive diplomatic commitments by the German government – repeatedly forcing all stakeholders to sit around the table and talk – that so far a bigger military escalation has been prevented. A long term relaxation of the situation, however, offering perspectives for Donbas is yet to come. The lengthy consultations on the implementation of the “Minsk agreements” on eastern Ukraine have brought to the surface their shortcomings regarding the construction/design and open space for interpretation in the way they are formulated. Still, this has not yet been acknowledged from the official side.
Meanwhile a number of NGOs have started to create an international coalition in order to contribute to the conflict regulation with civil societal means.

Given the situation, how can the way to peace in the East of Ukraine proceed? In what way could a reconstruction of the “Minsk agreements” support the peace process?  Is a new approach necessary or simply political will in Moscow and Kiev? Can changes in other fields of major interest of the Russian leadership/elite such as trade or a relaxation of the Syrian conflict increase their willingness to compromise in Donbas? How can the international diplomatic processes be monitored by civil society and the public? How can civic means of conflict resolution be strengthened? What will prevent a further alienation between Ukrainians – those in the territories, which are not under Ukrainian control, and those that live in the other parts of Ukraine?

This year’s Autumn Talks in Berlin, to which the German-Russian Exchange (DRA), the Heinrich Böll Foundation and others (details will follow soon) are warmly inviting, serve the differentiated formation of opinion guided by empathy for the population directly affected by the conflict.


Programme 8. november 2016

Tuesday, 8th of November 2016




Opening and welcoming words by Stefan Melle (DRA e.V.) and Ralf Fücks (Heinrich-Böll Foundation)


Keynotes: Caught in the Minsk Agreements ?!

Perception of the efforts to regulate the conflict
  1. From Berlin: Gernot Erler, German-Russian Intersocietal Cooperation – former state minister
  2. From Kiev: Oleksii Makeiev, Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
  3. From Moscow: Sergey Utkin, Institute of World Economy and
    International Relations of the Russian Academy of
    Sciences (IMEMO)

Moderator: Wilfried Jilge, German Council on Foreign Relations/ DGAP

In February 2015 the stakeholders have agreed on a roadmap to peace in Donbas in way of the “Minsk Agreements” which had been negotiated under high pressure of the on-going military clashes. Up to date neither weaponry nor combatants have been withdrawn from the defined contact line. Not all prisoners have been exchanged, yet, and OSCE observers’ free access to the territory is hindered. The EU has so far linked its sanctions against Russia to the implementation of the agreements. The conflict regarding the annexation of Crimea is left out of the discussion anyways. At the Normandy Four summit in October 2016 it was agreed that until the end of November a new roadmap should be drafted. Next to the establishment of an armed OSCE police monitoring mission, four new lines of demarcation were agreed upon.
Which political goals and levels are of major importance to the various stakeholders? How can Russia be dealt with as long as it is denying its role as one of the conflicting parties? Which are the agreements’ (construction) shortcomings and how could they be resolved? How suitable is the “Normandy Four” for the conflict resolution, considering the leading role of German foreign policy and the exclusion of other EU countries? How can current blockades in the negotiation process be overcome and with which actors? What impact are the latest developments are going to have? What results are to be expected until the end of November?



Coffee break


Panel I: Is wiser, who gives in?
Dialogue to overcome the antagonism of pragmatism and principles.

  • Mariia Ionova, MoP, Verkhovna Rada, Kiew
  • Marieluise Beck, MoP, Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen, Berlin
  • Valentina Cherevatenko, NGO Women of the Don Union, Rostov-on-Don

Moderator: Markus Wehner, journalist at FAZ

How can pragmatic solutions be found despite the tensions between Russia and the „West“ that represent the interests of the population in Donbas?

Can the Minsk process on Donbas be re-organized and successful or is a fundamentally new agreement necessary? What are common interests, blockades on principle, compromises?

Should Ukraine and the EU be open to pragmatic compromises even if this, in hindsight, legitimises Russia’s breech of international law? What would this imply for the future of the international order?



Coffee break


Panel II: Possibilities and limitations of civil society actors in conflict resolution


  • Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen
  • Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special
    Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
  • Aleksandra Romantsova, Center of Civil Liberties
  • Andrey Yurov, Youth Human Rights Movement
  • Wolodymyr Shcherbachenko, Justice for Peace in Donbas

Moderator: Stefan Melle, German‐Russian Exchange

Civil society has actively been involved in helping to relieve the humanitarian state of emergency in eastern Ukraine – be it their involvement in the emergency treatment of (internal) refugees or the delivery of humanitarian goods to the crisis region.

Also a significant part of the information coming from the conflict region is collected and published by non-governmental organizations.

How does civil conflict resolution function in Donbas? Which potential does it hold regarding the finding of a long term peace solution? And what are its limitations? Which local and international actors are present, which are missing? How can experiences made in other regions be transferred to what is happening in Donbas?



Final words


Reception and Knowledge Market Fair
Everyday life in Donbas – in between isolation and cooperation

Knowledge Market Fair on human rights work in eastern Ukraine


Various representatives of Russian, Ukrainian and international organisations inform on the pressing humanitarian issues and the situation regarding human rights on both sides of the contact line. Among other the conference’s participants will learn about the following questions in this session: In what ways is everyday life of the affected population limited due to the precarious security situation? How can the supply of food products and medical care be secured? How do people have access to state social benefits? How can civilians pass the contact line? Which perspectives on the future arrangement and development of the occupied territories prevail on each side of the contact line? What do the relations between civil societal actors of both sides look like, how are they organized and are they engaged in reconciliation processes? How has civil society in other regions in Europe been involved in the peace process i.e. in the Balkan?


End of conference




Side Event to Autumn Talks


"The changes of the 1980/90s and the War in Eastern Ukraine"

Wednesday, 9. november 2016, 4pm

Organizer: DRA, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Place of Event: Schumannstraße 8, 10117 Berlin
Language: English / Russian translation


Olena Pravylo - Congress of Cultural Activists Kiev
Valentina Cherevatenko - NGO Women of the Don Union
Igor Semyvolos‎ - Crisis Media Center
Aleksei Tokarev - Moscow State Institute of International Relations (tbc)

The time of the transformation after the disintegration of the Soviet Union was and still is characterized by political and economic instability and crises. These experience obviously impacts on the lives and thoughts of the people of Ukraine. Our question is wheter and how the transformation experience has an impact on the outbreak of the war in Donbass. Often structural differences and different economic capacities of the regions are mentioned. But is there a distinct Soviet identity in the Donbass region that explains the positioning of local elites and the population in the conflict? Did social conflicts in the course of the nation-building of the young state of Ukraine contribute to this? What role plays the continuous experience of structural or 'non-physical' violence (corruption, legal uncertainty, social climate, and discourse shaped by verbal violence) in the post-Soviet society?