Donbass elections: chance for peace in Ukraine (Ambassador Yakovenko, for Russia Today)
On 2 November, elections were held in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine in an orderly manner and with a high voter turnout. These are the two regions whose populations had categorically refused to accept the coup in Kiev and its aftermath and who rejected the divisive ideology that the triumphant Maidan leaders had tried to impose on the entire country. They showed their own perspective on the historical processes which had shaped modern Ukraine.
The elections are very important in terms of legitimising the authorities in the two regions. This means that negotiations between Kiev and Donbass, including within the Contact Group, will from now on bring together elected representatives of the respective populations. This will strengthen the chances for finding political solutions that would be, first, accepted by the people and, second, implemented in practice. Consequently, the elections are an important contribution to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Russia respects the expression of the will of the people in southeastern Ukraine. The main task of the elected authorities is to address the extremely difficult economic and humanitarian situation in the region.
There are widespread accusations against Donbass to the effect that the elections run counter to the Minsk agreements and undermine the peace process. However, it is to be recalled that the Ukrainian authorities have not implemented many of their own Minsk commitments, including with respect to local elections. They had failed to give effect to the special law adopted for that purpose: the law provided that its area of application was to be set by a special parliamentary decision that has never been adopted. They had set the date for local elections in Donbass for 7 December, while the schedule agreed in Minsk provided for the time-frame between 19 October and 3 November. In brief, they had made it impossible to hold elections within the framework of Ukrainian legislation, as it was foreseen in Minsk.
To that, one may add the many other Ukrainian violations of Minsk commitments: cease-fire is being violated, no amnesty has been granted, no progress is seen in devolution, no national dialogue is taking place, no economic programme for Donbass has been adopted, obstacles are created for humanitarian assistance to Donbass. In these circumstances, it is utterly wrong to artificially pick one aspect of the interconnected Minsk agreements (the elections issue) and declare it the main criterion of the sustainability of the peace process. If Kiev chooses to withdraw from talks under this pretext, it will bear full responsibility for derailing them. For our part, we are prepared to facilitate further dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk aimed at preservation of the single political, economic and humanitarian space of Ukraine.