The editor-in-chief of the Iserlohner Kreisanzeiger und Zeitung (IKZ) daily Thomas Reunert dedicated an entire page on the topic of wind energy last Sunday, bearing the headline: “The Norwegians Are Giving Us The Finger!”
It is an interview with a former professor from the University of Bielefeld, Dr. Kurt Gehlert, 75, an expert in mining. It focuses on the state of Germany’s Energiewende (transition to green energies), particularly wind power and the illusions of energy storage technology.
The sub-heading reads
Dr. Kurt Gehlert is certain that the Energiewende has already failed. Or we will drown and cover ourselves in wind turbines.”
Germans pushing the Energiewende are aiming to see 80% of Germany’s energy needs being met by green energies by 2050. Some are even calling for doing away with natural gas, in addition to coal and oil.
But the monster-sized insurmountable obstacles loom as German policymakers begin to scramble in a confused state of denial.
Germany’s alternative baseload-capable sources, such as hydro and biogas, are severely limited and account for only 11.5% of Germany’s total energy supply today. Moreover there still does not exist a viable technology for storing the irregular supply of wind and solar power. Gehlert says these technologies are nowhere near being capable of taking on the role of providing a reliable baseload.
The 75-year old professor points out that although there is a huge capacity of wind and solar energy already in place, often both are not available because they are weather-dependent. Gehlert tells the IKZ that the media like to give the public the impression that the technology is not far away, but the reality is that it is nowhere near in sight.
Energy storage concepts such as accumulators, power-to-gas, compressed air storage are plagued by low efficiencies and sky-high costs. He reminds readers that using electric car batteries as a storage media is also a pie-in-the-sky-vision. Gehlert tells IKZ :
It sounds like a good idea and so let us illustrate it using a rough calculation. In 2020 it is planned to have 1 million electric cars on the roads in Germany. If we tap into them and remove 50% of the average 25 kwh charge capacity, then we will extract enough power from them (12.5 x 1000000 =12.5 gigawatt-hours) to cover Germany’s needs each day for 25 minutes and 17 seconds; Germany’s total daily consumption is 712 gigawatt-hours. And then all the electric car owners will have only 50% of the range available for their next trip.”
In Germany about 125 times more storage lakes than what exists today would need to be constructed by 2050. This area and topography simply does not exist at all.”
On the idea of using Norway’s, Switzerland’s or Austria’s mountainous regions to build the necessary pump-storage capacity, Gehlert tells the IKZ :
The Swiss are reacting allergically, and the Norwegians are giving us the finger.”
Go ruin your own landscape, and leave ours alone.
And even if it was possible to use pump-storage in foreign countries, Gehlert tells the IKZ that in order to bring the power from the above-mentioned mountainous countries to the big consumption centers in Germany’s industrial heartland, it would require the construction of about 70 high voltage power lines ranging from 300 to 1200 km in length!
Gehlert also scoffs at the idea of using wind-power-to-gas as a method for storing energy, which would be used to fire gas turbines to produce electricity in times of low-winds. And expanding the calculation to 50% constant electrical power from wind energy would require about 470,000 German wind turbines (Currently there are about 25,000). Gehlert elaborates:
The figure is difficult to fathom. Germany has an area of approximately 360,000 square kilometers. That means each of the 470,000 wind turbines would have 0.76 sq km.. The city of Iserlohn alone has an area of 125.5 square kilometers and so would have 165 wind turbines.”
The IKZ asks Gehlert to summarize:
The Energiewende under the given conditions in Germany is a failure […]. The policymakers state in a worried manner: Our predecessors have left behind a disillusioned population.”
The German ambassador to Washington warns that his country and other nations are ready to move beyond sanctions imposed on Iran over its peaceful nuclear program, regardless of any decision that the US Congress may be willing to make.
Peter Wittig made the comments on Thursday in reaction to the US Senate’s recent approval of a bill that potentially makes removal of sanctions conditional on congressional consent.
The US Senate passed legislation on Thursday, which would make it possible for Congress to review and potentially reject a nuclear deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
The legislation will allow for a 30-day review of any final agreement with Iran. During the review period, President Barack Obama would be able to waive those Iran sanctions, which were imposed by the executive branch. However, the president would have to leave in place sanctions that Congress had previously drafted.
Addressing the Columbus Metropolitan Club in central Ohio, the German ambassador said, “The alternatives to a negotiated deal are not very attractive.”
Wittig said while Congress would probably be willing to impose new sanctions on Iran, other countries would not follow, adding that such state of affairs would cause “this universal sanctions regime” against Iran to “crumble.”
He also dismissed as not viable Washington’s talks of a military option against Iran saying it will not lead to a lasting solution.
The German ambassador stated that his government pleads to give diplomacy a chance, adding that any agreement that may be signed between Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, the UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia – will be reviewed and judged on its merits.
At the beginning of 2012, the US and EU imposed sanctions on Iran’s economic sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from cooperating with the Islamic Republic in those sectors.
The sanctions were imposed over allegations about possible diversion in Iran’s nuclear program toward military objectives. Iran categorically rejected the allegation.
Iran and the P5+1 reached a mutual understanding on April 2 in the Swiss city of Lausanne as a prelude to a comprehensive deal before a self-designated deadline at the end of June. A key point of Lausanne statement was a promise to lift a series of sanctions on Iranian economy.
The intelligence sharing relationship between German and American spy agencies is one of dominance and blackmail rather than cooperation, with Germany’s BND acting as a “colony” used to help gather information for US authorities, German activist and publicist Christoph Horstel said.
There has been much speculation regarding the seemingly close relationship between German and US intelligence agencies in recent times, following German media reports alleging that Berlin’s foreign intelligence agency — the BND — spied on various European targets on behalf of America’s National Security Agency (NSA).
According to the reports, the NSA had been given access to the e-mails of various European politicians, EU institutions and European member state ministries.
This led many to suggest Germany was complicit with the US in operating an illegal global spy network. Chancellor Angela Merkel denied Germany was involved in illegal activity, telling journalists that it was essential for the BND to keep working with the NSA in order to ensure the safety of citizens.
‘A Big Show, A Big Farce’
However, Christoph Horstel believes that while Berlin does act on behalf of Washington’s intelligence agencies, he told Sputnik that the relationship is very one-sided.
“Well this is a big show, a big farce. All of the political insiders know what the real question is. The real question is that this is not cooperation; Germany is [a] colony.”
Horstel points out that the former US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — which later become the CIA — established the German BND, and he believes it has been set up to look after Washington’s European interests.
“What we do have here, in fact, is a written understanding that the BND has to give — free of charge — any of the fruits of its work to the CIA. That is quite normal,” he said.
“The Americans are the masters of the game in Europe, so we [Germany] have to deliver to them. It’s a kind of service; a service of Germany to the US and we have to do that — that’s fact.”
German Officials ‘Blackmailed’ by US
Despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel fronting the media to deny accusations that she was in any way complicit in allowing American authorities to illegally spy on European firms, Horstel believes the chancellor would be well aware of what practices are going on.
“If she [Merkel] was not very deeply cooperating with the Americans, she would not be chancellor. We have a double system to ensure that we do exactly as Washington wants.
“What we have here is a very clear-cut system of blackmail against anyone in a high position — that’s number one,” he said, suggesting that US access to German security files allows American authorities to hold German politicians to ransom.
Meanwhile, Horstel also believes an inherent American influence on German politics and media means that governments in favor of US policy are also elected, and the media consistently follows American rhetoric on international issues, such as the crisis in Ukraine.
“Number two is that when it comes to elections, you will get into a powerful enough position to win unless the Americans are nodding their head. This also applies to the army ranks and the media ranks.
“This is why it’s important to note why the German media is so hostile to Russia. The Americans say it, and we [Germans] do it.”
A German lawmaker has condemned the European Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s anti-Russia policy, saying the EU bans are destroying the country’s businesses, with dozens of reported bankruptcies.
Franz Wiese, a Brandenburg lawmaker and member of the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party, made the remarks on Monday.
“Approved by the European Union and conducted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the anti-Russian sanctions policy is destroying small and medium businesses in Brandenburg as well as in the rest of the country,” said Wiese.
According to Wiese, Merkel’s anti-Russia policy has so far resulted in the bankruptcy of 90 German companies.
Wiese’s remarks came a day after neighboring Czech Republic’s President Miloš Zeman criticized the Western sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, describing the policy as counterproductive and provocative. Zeman also called for the immediate abandonment of such bans.
Western powers have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow is involved in the deadly crisis in neighboring Ukraine, which broke out when Kiev launched military operations against pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine last year. Russia has denied the allegation.
In a tit-for-tat measure, Moscow imposed yearlong food bans on the United States, the EU, Australia, Canada and Norway in August last year.
The move is estimated to cost European agricultural industries millions of dollars in damage. Prior to the food ban, Russia received a quarter of its produce from the EU nations.
On April 27, Russia said it will tighten an existing ban on the import of fruits and vegetables from Bulgaria over concerns that Sofia may be attempting to send European products into Russia, using false documents.
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service has been spying for US intelligence agencies for years. Merkel’s Office should have been informed in 2008 about this practice, but the federal government has not undertaken any corresponding measures, a German magazine wrote.
It became known on Thursday the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) overheard communications of European companies and politicians for the NSA, according to Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten.
However, Merkel’s Office seems to have done nothing to stop these activities, though it was informed about US espionage attempts in 2008.
According to the available information, the NSA was trying to get information about the multinational arms companies EADS and Eurocopter. This was contrary to German interests, and the BND had rejected the requests at that time.
However, now it has become clear that the BND assisted the US National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on European targets over the last few years.
The revelation was perceived by many German politicians as “scandalous”. They demanded an end to such ‘collaboration’ with the US and argued that the chancellor’s office should probably have been aware of the spy agencies’ cooperation.
Germany’s BND intelligence agency spied on European politicians and companies for the NSA for over a decade, Spiegel Online revealed. But an internal probe showed that at least 40,000 of those spying requests were against German and EU interests.
Over the course of 10 years, the NSA sent the BND thousands of so-called ‘selectors,’ which included IP addresses, emails, and phone numbers, Spiegel reported.
Several times a day, the BND downloaded the NSA selectors into their monitoring system and used them to spy on targets. The results were sent to the German agency’s headquarters in Pullach for evaluation, and then to some extent to the NSA, Zeit Online revealed, adding that the NSA sent about 800,000 ‘selectors’ to the BND in total.
Among the selectors were European politicians, whose names were not revealed. It was mentioned that the list included French authorities. Among the companies spied upon were the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Eurocopter.
Since at least 2008, BND employees felt that some of the selectors ran contrary to the mission profile of the intelligence agency and the goal of the German Foreign Ministry, as they were not covered by the 2002 Memorandum of Agreement between Germany and the US, aimed at combating global terrorism.
However, it wasn’t until 2013, in the midst of the Edward Snowden revelations, that an investigation into the spying activities took place. That probe revealed that 2,000 of the selectors actually violated German and Western European interests, with many used to spy on politicians. However, those revelations were not reported to the Chancellor’s Office. Instead, one of the BND’s department chiefs simply asked the NSA to stop making such requests.
But upon re-examination following parliamentary request, the BND came to the conclusion that up to 40,000 selectors were actually directed against Western European and German interests. The Chancellor’s Office was notified of the findings in March.
Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier informed members of the parliamentary oversight committee of the latest developments on Wednesday. BND chief Gerhard Schindler was excluded from the meeting.
Konstantin von Notz, deputy parliamentary leaders of the Greens, told Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper that he found it “hard to imagine” that the Chancellor’s Office was unaware of the collaboration between the two spy agencies.
“The limit has now been exceeded. The chancellor must explain the situation,” he added.
Left Party leader Gregor Gysi has called the collaboration a “scandal” and demanded an end to “conformism with the US administration,” Deutsche Welle reported.
Reprieve | April 19, 2015
A court in Germany is set to take evidence from a Yemeni victim of the USA’s secret drone programme – in the wake of revelations that military bases on German soil play a key role in the strikes.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a who lost two relatives to a 2012 drone strike, has won the right to give evidence next month, as part of a constitutional claim filed in Germany.
The claim, filed in October last year by international human rights organisation Reprieve and its German partner, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), seeks measures by the German administration to stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the U.S. in Yemen. They argue that the German government is acting in breach of the German constitution by allowing the U.S. to use its air base at Ramstein for illegal drone attacks abroad.
Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim – a preacher – and nephew Waleed – a local police officer – to a US drone strike on the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge his congregation to reject Al Qaeda.
The case represents the first time that a court in a country which provides support to the US drone programme will hear from one of its civilian victims. The U.S.’ campaign of drone strikes – carried out in secret by the CIA and U.S. Special Forces – has come in for widespread criticism due to a lack of transparency and accountability. Many legal experts have argued that it violates both domestic and international law, while humanitarians have warned of the large number of civilians killed in the strikes.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve and Mr bin Ali Jaber’s lawyer: “This is a crucial step in efforts to gain accountability for the civilian victims of secret US drone strikes. It also highlights that the US is not alone in this campaign – support is quietly provided by allies including Germany and the UK. Faisal’s story demonstrates how the misguided drone programme is not simply unacceptable, but deeply counterproductive. Not only is it killing civilians; it has even killed the very people who should be our allies in fighting extremism. Let’s hope this marks the start of some long overdue scrutiny of a programme characterised by secrecy.”
Andreas Schüller, Mr bin Ali Jaber’s attorney at ECCHR, said: “Germany must now take effective measures to stop the US from using Ramsteinn airbase for combat drone missions.”
This file photo shows a previous “Cologne Wailing Wall” exhibit displaying photographs of Palestinian children killed by Israel’s aggression
A German court has shut down a long-standing anti-Israel exhibition in the western city of Cologne, accusing its organizer of anti-Semitism and glorification of violence.
The German municipal court said the permanent exhibit, which displayed numerous pictures of the Palestinian children who were killed and injured during the Israeli regime’s bloody offensive against Gaza last summer, violates a law designed to protect minors.
Walter Hermann, the organizer of the exhibit, has protested for years against Israel with his exhibit dubbed the “Cologne Wailing Wall.”
Hermann, 76, whose anti-Israel campaign is named “Peace Demonstration,” told the German Express newspaper that the wanted to draw public attention to Israeli policies against Palestinian people.
The court ruled that Hermann will face a fine of USD 635 and a possible second trial should he continue to display the pictures. The anti-Israel activist intends to appeal the ruling.
Earlier in 2010, the city partnerships of Cologne-Tel Aviv and Cologne-Bethlehem issued a joint statement condemning the anti-Israel exhibit.
According to the statement, “The anti-Semitic and anti-Israel presentation” of the Cologne Wailing Wall “feeds anti-Israel resentments.”
In its latest major act of military aggression against Gaza, the Israeli regime started airstrikes on the Palestinian territory in early July 2014 and later expanded its campaign with a ground invasion. The war ended in late August that year.
Nearly 2,200 Palestinians lost their lives and some 11,000 were injured in the assaults. Gaza Health officials say the victims included 578 children and nearly 260 women, adding that more than 3,100 children were injured in the offensive.
Moreover, the UN has said that up to 1,500 children were orphaned in the Israeli war.
The Times of Israel reports that an Israeli op-ed writer has advocated the nuclear annihilation of both Iran and Germany.
In an article written in Hebrew for Israel National News, Chen Ben-Eliyahu advocates the use of 20 or 30 nuclear bombs against Germany in revenge for the holocaust and also against Iran which the author suggests is an existential threat to Israel.
“Twenty, thirty atomic bombs on Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dresden, Dortmund and so on to assure the job gets done. And the land will be quiet for a thousand years,” he wrote.
“To an existential threat we must respond with an existential threat,” he wrote, “not with speeches in Congress. We must make it clear to the Iranians that Israel will wipe out their nuclear program and Tehran and Isfahan as well.”
The German federal television channel ZDF got into a bit of trouble recently after a citizens’ media monitoring group called them out over false reporting on the presence of Russian tanks in eastern Ukraine.
A German media monitoring organization has filed a complaint against federal channel ZDF over false reporting on the situation in eastern Ukraine, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten has reported.
The complaint, filed by a citizens’ group known as the Permanent Open Committee of Media Monitoring, revolves around a photo accompanying a recent news segment airing on ZDF about alleged Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine.
The segment, which described the alleged movement of Russian tanks and missile systems into eastern Ukraine, featured a photo with the caption “Russian armored vehicles moved through Isvarino in the Lugansk region, February 12, 2015,” citing “Ukrainian army spokesman Andrei Lysenko in Kiev.” The only problem is that the image in question was actually taken several years earlier, in 2009, and in South Ossetia, not Ukraine.
In their complaint to ZDF, one of Germany’s largest broadcasters, the Open Committee notes that “it would be interesting to know why such an image, which has nothing to do with the news in question, is being repeated, meant as it is to convince a third party of the truthfulness of assumptions about an “invasion by [Russian] armor.”
Maren Mueller, one of the founders of the Open Committee and a former media worker herself, believes that much of German coverage of events in eastern Ukraine is tainted by distortions, half-truths and outright lies. Mueller says that “the coverage of events in Ukraine by the media has reached the height of fantasy, and is not worth taking seriously.” She notes that the tank story is just one example of the kinds of distortions that regularly occur. Recently, German media watchers forced an ARD correspondent to retract his words on the deaths of two civilians in Krasnoarmeysk, after the latter had erroneously claimed that the deaths were caused by “the bullets of the new rulers,” meaning the anti-Kiev rebels. The channel has since been forced to issue an apology over the mistake.
Ms. Mueller believes that among the biggest problems of the German media’s coverage of events is the “dangerous closeness” between the media’s line and that of the description of the conflict being provided in the government.
Last week a senior American official faced embarrassment on the Senate floor after it turned out that photos of Russian tanks he was presenting as proof of Russian involvement in Ukraine were also from the war in South Ossetia. After finding out that the photos weren’t from the Ukraine war, Inhofe stated that “the Ukrainian parliament members who gave us these photos in print form as if it came directly from a camera really did themselves a disservice. We felt confident to release these photos because the images match the reporting of what is going on in the region. I was furious to learn one of the photos provided now appears to be falsified from an AP photo taken in 2008.”
The eastern Ukrainian militias have stopped all military action in accordance with the Minsk peace deal. They will suppress any provocations that may be organized by Kiev forces, said Aleksandr Zakharchenko, head of Donetsk People’s Republic.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered troops to cease fire at Sunday midnight local time (22:00 GMT) in line with the Thursday Minsk agreement. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page that “all National Guard and Interior Ministry units will halt fire at midnight.”
Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesman of Donetsk People’s Republic, Eduard Basurin, has ordered that all eastern Ukrainian militia units halt fighting “on the entire line of contact,” RIA Novosti reports. A similar statement has come out of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, saying that local militia are to stop all combat actions at midnight.
Earlier, leaders of the restive Ukrainian republics said their regions have ratified the peace deal.
The militias will stop all military action outside the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zakharchenko said. However, he said that the self-defense forces will reply to any provocative actions by the Kiev troops, including assaults and precision fire.
The DPR leader also said that rebels won’t release a large group of Ukrainian troops, who have been entrapped near the village of Debaltsevo since early February.
“Their every attempt to break out will be suppressed,” Zakharchenko is cited by RIA-Novosti news agency.
The rebels’ leader reminded that “there wasn’t a word mentioning Debaltsevo in the agreements” signed in Minsk on February 12, which means that “Ukraine simply betrayed the 5,000 people trapped in the Debaltsevo ‘cauldron’.”
Earlier, Basurin said that the Ukrainian troops near Debaltsevo won’t be shelled, but won’t be released as well, with surrender being the only option.
Zakharchenko has put his signature under a decree, which foresees the beginning of the ceasefire at 01:00 AM local time on Sunday – midnight for Kiev and 2200 GMT.
The DPR head also said that the Donetsk People’s Republic won’t grant control over its border with Russia to Ukrainian border guards: “Today an order will be issued to create the border guard service. Not a single Ukrainian soldier will enter our territory.”
Poroshenko warns of martial law
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has once again warned that if the Minsk agreements fail, “martial law will be implemented not only in Donetsk and Lugansk, but in the whole country”.
Moscow has expressed hopes Kiev and the rebels, as well as all the sides, which supported the Minsk peace deal, including France and Germany, “will do everything for the signed agreements to be scrupulously implemented,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“Ukraine’s official representatives… as well as those of several Western countries, the US in particular, have essentially expressed solidarity with the opinion of radical nationalists in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and have began distorting the contents of the Minsk agreements,” the ministry said.
On Saturday, Poroshenko spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the phone, with the three heads of state stressing that all sides must fulfill the obligations they’ve taken according to Minsk agreements, first of all, those concerning the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian president also had a telephone conversation with US president Barack Obama, during which the two leaders “agreed on the further coordination of efforts in the event of an escalation” in Ukraine’s southeast.
Poroshenko and Obama “discussed the situation in Donbass and expressed concerns about the situation in Debaltsevo,” according to the Ukrainian president’s website.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, also discussed the situation in southeastern Ukraine on the phone, and stressed “the importance of strict implementation of the ceasefire regime by the conflicting sides.”
Lavrov also emphasized that the Minsk peace deal “also includes obligations by Kiev to remove the financial and economic blockade of the [Ukrainian] southeast; to provide an amnesty; to stage a constitutional reform by the end of the year and adopt legislation on the special status of Donbass,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on its Facebook page.
The contact group, which includes representatives from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, held video consultations on Saturday, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said.
According to the OSCE, all parties agreed to take necessary measures to establish the agreed truce and de-escalation of the conflict, including in the areas of Debaltsevo and Mariupol.
The contact group will continue holding consultations on a regular basis to ensure the implementation of the Minsk agreements, a statement from the watchdog added.
The Minsk agreement provides for a security zone separating the Kiev forces and the rebels, a ceasefire beginning on Sunday and a heavy weapons pullout to be completed in 14 days. The deal was signed by the contact group, which includes the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, a representative of the OSCE, Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma, and the Russian ambassador to Ukraine,
A separate declaration supporting the deal was agreed upon by the so-called “Normandy Four” leaders – French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who also gathered in Belarusian capital.
In accordance with the deal, on Saturday the eastern Ukrainian republics also proposed amendments to the constitution. One of the key demands is to grant certain regions the right to define and form the structure of local governments themselves, Denis Pushilin, DPR representative at the Minsk talks, said.
The rebels also want the official status for the Russian language and other minority languages, spoken in Ukraine’s central regions, he said. Another proposed amendment foresees the decentralization of fiscal and tax systems, “up to the possibility of creating in free economic zones and other special economic regimes on certain territories,” Pushilin is cited by TASS news agency.
While the Minsk deal is hoped to secure an end to the bloody and devastating internal conflict that has taken the lives of over 5,300 people in the UN’s estimates since last April, shelling in Donetsk was reported throughout the whole of Saturday.
An agreement has been brokered in Minsk to stop hostilities in Ukraine from Sunday. The deal was reached after marathon talks between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, and signed by the Ukrainian rebels.
“I believe we agreed on a big deal. We agreed to a ceasefire starting at 00:00 on February 15,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media after the talks were finished.
“The main thing achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared – without any conditions at all – a general ceasefire,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told journalists in a separate statement.
A compromise decision was taken over the disengagement line, which was the biggest stumbling block in the negotiation. According to the document, Kiev’s troops would pull back heavy weapons from the current frontline. The rebels would pull back from the line as it existed in September, when the previous ceasefire agreement was signed.
The security zone separating the warring parties must be at least 50km wide for artillery over 100mm caliber, 70km for regular multiple rocket launchers and 100km for heavier weapons with a longer range, such as Tochka-U ballistic missiles, the document states.
The weapons pullout must start on Sunday and be completed in no longer than 14 days. The OSCE is charged with implementing the ceasefire on the ground and will use its drone fleet and monitors to verify that both parties are sticking to the deal.
The ceasefire deal provides for withdrawal of all “foreign troops, heavy weapons and mercenaries” from Ukraine under an OSCE monitoring. “Illegal armed groups” would be disarmed, but local authorities in the future would be allowed to have legal militia units.
The agreement involves exchange of all prisoners, which is to be completed within 19 days. A general amnesty for the rebels would be declared by Kiev.
The national government’s control over the borders between Donetsk and Lugansk Regions would be fully restored a day after municipal elections, which would be held in the regions as part of a profound constitutional reform.
The agreement requires a political reform in Ukraine to ensure decentralization and a special status for its rebel provinces. It requires Ukraine to adopt legislation which would provide permanent privileges to the Lugansk and Donetsk Regions, currently self-declared republics, by the end of 2015.
The legislation would include the right for language self-determination and trans-border ties with Russia, as well as the authority of the local governments to appoint local prosecutors and judges, the document states.
Humanitarian and economic issues are also mentioned in the deal. Kiev would restore economic ties and social payments, which it cut in rebel-held areas, the document says. An international monitoring mechanism may be established for these payments.
During the transition period an internationally-monitored mechanism for humanitarian aid to the regions affected by the war would be implemented, the document sates.
Direct talks needed
Putin said that Kiev’s unwillingness to hold direct talks with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics was among the reasons it took so much time to reach an agreement.
“They may be unrecognized, but we have to deal with real life here, and if everyone wants to agree and have sustainable relations, direct contacts are needed,” Putin said.
He added that the ‘Normandy Four’ expect the parties involved in the conflict to show restraint even in the days before the ceasefire takes effect.
The terms of the ceasefire are spelled out in a document signed by members of the so-called contact group, which includes representatives from the rebel forces, Kiev, Moscow and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, Putin said.
The members of the ‘Normandy Four’ – Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande – supported a joint declaration describing the results of their work.
The declaration was not meant to be signed by the leaders, Germany FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
If broken, no new memorandum possible
Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who signed the Minsk document, said it required additional consultation and warned that “if these terms are broken, there will be no new meetings or memoranda.”
He added that he and Igor Plotnitsky, the head of Lugansk People’s Republic, agreed to sign the document “due to guarantees from the president of Russia, chancellor of Germany and president of France,” with the hope that it would allow their people to “achieve peaceful development.”
The new Minsk accord gives hope for de-escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, although it would require a major effort to build trust between the parties involved. The previous deal collapsed as neither Kiev nor the rebels implemented it fully, which means the threat of renewed hostilities in Ukraine continue to loom.