Ukraine Parliament approves Special Status for East Ukraine Regions – for 3 years?
The Ukrainian parliament has approved laws on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, as well as amnesty for pro-independence freedom fighters.
The special status law has received 277 ‘yes’ votes from a total of 450 MPs, while the amnesty law was approved by 287 parliamentary members. The session of the Verkhovna Rada is underway during which MPs are to ratify an agreement with the EU.
The law on the special status of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions guarantees the right to use and study Russian or any other language in Ukraine.
It also states that local elections are to take place in the regions on December 7.
The head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, earlier welcomed the law on special status for Ukraine’s eastern regions proposed by to Ukraine President Poroshenko by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The law on the special status of Donbass generally reflects the priorities we voiced at the September 1 negotiations. That’s why, even though a lot remains unclear, we may say that a peaceful solution has received its first chance of being implemented,” Plotnitsky told RIA Novosti.
Minsk protocol: Ukraine to be decentralized, special status for Lugansk, Donetsk
The PM of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko has reacted to the news of the law being passed by saying it should first be signed by President Poroshenko, RIA Novosti reports.
“First let Poroshenko sign it, let it be published and come into force. Then we’ll translate it into Russian, read it and give an assessment,” Zakharchenko said.
The law on ‘Prevention of prosecution and punishment of participants of events in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions’ offers amnesty to those anti-government fighters who release all prisoners, hand in all weapons and vacate all occupied government buildings within a month following the law’s enactment.
The laws have been part of a peace roadmap negotiated by Poroshenko and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The roadmap also included an agreement to a ceasefire, which came into force September 5.
The truce has been barely holding with numerous reports on violations and both the troops and the anti-government fighters blaming each other for sporadic shootings.
Another part of the peace plan proposed by President Putin – a prisoner exchange – has been gradually implemented.
The OSCE has revealed the 12-point roadmap behind the September 5 truce signed in Minsk. It says that Ukraine must adopt a new law, allowing for a special status for Lugansk and Donetsk regions, and hold early elections there.
The document, titled ‘Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group’ and signed in Minsk on September 5, outlines what needs to be done for the ceasefire to stay in place.
“To decentralize power, including through the adoption by Ukraine of law ‘on provisional procedure for local government in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions (law on special status),’” states one of the provisions in the document.
Another point emphasizes that “early local elections” are to be held in light of the special status of both regions. The early elections must be held in accordance with the same proposed law, it says.
Kiev must then continue an “inclusive nationwide dialogue,” the document stresses.
The roadmap also implies an amnesty for anti-government forces in Donbass: “To adopt a law, prohibiting prosecution or punishment of people in relation to the events that took place in individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.”
Anti-government rebels rest outside a house in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, September 5, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)
At the same time, it notes that all “illegal military formations, military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries” have to be withdrawn from Ukraine.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a copy of the protocol early on Sunday, with only a PDF document in Russian available so far.
During the meeting on September 5, Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire.
Some of the other provisions of the truce include monitoring of the ceasefire inside Ukraine and on the Russia-Ukraine border by international OSCE observers, the freeing of all prisoners of war, and the opening of humanitarian corridors.
A “safety zone” is to be created with the participation of the OSCE on the Russia-Ukraine border, the document says.
It also calls for measures to improve the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and urges in a separate point that a program for Donbass’ economic development is to be adopted.
Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, according to the UN’s latest data. More than 6,033 others have been wounded in the turmoil.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia.
A Ukrainian serviceman sit ontop of an armoured personnel carrier during a patrol on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near town of Debaltseve, on September 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)