Donbas: Reintegration or Сonservation

Donbas: Reintegration or Сonservation

The change of the presidential administration in the United States of America as well as the forthcoming elections in a number of European countries may influence the stance of these countries with respect to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the ways of resolving it. Ukraine risks losing the support of leading world powers. Thus, it is required to analyze and to form the adequate response to those changes.

Certain Ukrainian institutions have started developing models of the new agenda concerning the completion of the armed phase of the conflict, the agenda which will be suitable for Ukraine, though two models to resolve the conflict in the Donbas based on the Minsk Agreements have already been proposed. There is also a model developed by Samopomich Party. However, the latter is not based on the Minsk Agreements.

The author of the first model (according to their chronology) is President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrainian Act On the special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions which was voted for by the Parliament in September 2014, after the conclusion of the first Minsk Agreements. The Act was signed by the President on October 17, 2014..

The main provisions of the Act are as follows:

  • The special order of local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be introduced for three years ;
  • Amnesty for those who have not committed felonies ;
  • Provision of conditions for using Russian in education, MM, by state and central power bodies, and in other spheres of life;
  • Powers of deputies and officials elected at preterm elections cannot be stopped earlier;
  • Special order of appointing prosecutor's office and court's chiefs with the participation of local self-government bodies;
  • Bodies of central power may conclude agreements with respective bodies of local self-government on economic, social, and cultural development of certain districts by  latter's initiative ;
  • The state supports social and economic development of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions ;
  • Executive power bodies support transborder cooperation of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions with the Russian Federation;
  • People's militia squads are to be organized in certain areas.

Despite the fact that the draft law was signed by the President, it has had no continuation.  

Opposition Block deputies developed another draft law  - On peculiarities of governing certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions – which per se is similar to the above mentioned one.

The Opposition also proposes to introduce the special order temporarily, but do not identify the period itself. The draft law presents the self-government system on the uncontrolled territory in more detail.

Both documents (presented by the President and by the Opposition) propose the organization of people's militia, provision of the special status of Russian, possibility to develop transborder cooperation with the Russian Federation and accordance in appointing prosecutors and judges.

Main provisions of the draft law proposed by the Opposition Block:

  • The Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has created an interim body – Donbas Interregional Territorial Department (DITD) with an independent system of state government on the principles of decentralization and large powers of local self-government;
  • The borders of DITD, the list of towns, districts, and localities which will be included in DITD has been identified;
  • DITD power and local self-government bodies guarantee the management of the life on the territory of their jurisdiction, solve economic and social development problems, in particular, humanitarian issues of culture, language, identity, freedom of religion;
  • Power bodies of DITD make decisions on creating, identifying the structure and the quantity of the people's militia, coordinate their activities, consider the issues connected with the appointment of chiefs of the bodies of the Interior, security service, and the prosecutor's office;
  • The DITD chief is elected by secret ballot for a 5-year term;
  • The DITD Representative Meeting, as well as the state, has the power to give a special status to Russian and other minorities.

Representatives the Samopomich political party faction and other parties have registered a draft law On Temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, which presupposes a complete blockade of the uncontrolled territory by the Ukrainian power with the exception of the transit of people. The draft law is technically difficult to implement. It envisages no water supply to the uncontrolled territories which could be done only if some towns of the controlled territory will be disconnected, for example, Mariupol. That is why some alterations are to be made in this draft.

Though the draft was developed by representatives of a number of factions, it is mainly lobbied by Samopomich.

Samopomich draft law presupposes:

  • Ukraine is not responsible for protecting life and health, and for saving property of people who live on temporarily occupied territories;
  • Refusal from the duties connected with providing welfare allowances and pensions to those who live on temporarily occupied territories (the authors of the law think that this is the duty of the Russian Federation as it occupied this territory);
  • The Russian Federation is responsible for violations of rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen defined by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine that may happen on temporarily occupied territories;
  • Supplying fuel and energy resources and providing centralized water supply to temporarily occupied territories is forbidden;
  • Railway and vehicle cargo traffic as well as passenger traffic (with the exception of humanitarian cargos) are forbidden;
  • If the occupied territory is liberated martial law is imposed throughout the area;
  • After the liberation of the occupied territory any kind of election is temporarily banned there.

The Russian Federation initiatives and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Representatives of the Russian Federation and of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions have their own vision of the Minsk Agreements implementation. These demands are changed and reviewed from time to time. Some of them are rather declarative and political and go beyond the Minsk Agreements. The main ones are as follows:

  • From time to time the “DPR” demands taking control over the whole territory of the Donetsk region;
  • The Russian side and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions insist on the fact that political conditions are the priority;
  • A direct dialogue with certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions representatives;
  • Guarantees of granting a permanent not temporary “special status” to uncontrolled territories;
  • A constitutional reform which would secure the special status;
  • Official status of the Russian language;
  • Central authorities’ support of financial growth;
  • Forming the “people’s militia”, agreeing about the appointments of heads of prosecutors’ offices and judges.
  • Amnesty;
  • Local elections.


There is still no expert assessment of each scenario or a real discussion about them.   The society is sure that each plan just reflects the way some political or social group sees the resolution of the conflict. The discussion is  mostly about mutual accusations of collaboration with the enemy and this prevents the society from reaching an agreement about the conflict resolution.  

Giving Ukrainian authorities the control over the uncontrolled part of the border is not discussed in laws and draft laws. Draft laws are models which reflect parts of the Minsk Agreements implementation. According to them, Ukrainian authorities must get back the control over the border. The procedure of giving back the control is another key question. The Russian side and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions insist that the control can be regained only after the election but the Ukrainian side does not agree to this.

Half a year later, the Ukrainian side has not demonstrated any kind of a road map which would show its vision of the Minsk process implementation. All the existing ways of the Donbas conflict resolution can be divided within two main directions: reintegration or conservation. Those who criticize reintegration plans do not offer any alternatives besides waiting for something.

On the other hand, despite the seeming political polarity of those who elaborate the ways for reintegration (namely, the president of Ukraine, Opposition Block, representatives of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and of the Russian Federation), their plans are almost identical in their contents and the main disputes are about the succession of their implementation.

Reintegration plans have some common features:

  • Granting uncontrolled districts a “special status” which would allow their self-governance in Ukraine (Opposition Block and Presidential Administration offer to provide the areas with it on a temporary basis);
  • Development of cross-border cooperation of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions with the Russian Federation regions;
  • Additional guarantees for the Russian language;
  • Forming the “people’s militia”, agreeing about the appointments of heads of prosecutors’ offices and judges;
  • Restoration of social and economic connections.

The general consensus about these points has been reached only on declarative level.  Of course, the parties can interpret these points according to their own vision, however, there is some general vision. The main point where the consensus has not been reached yet if the so-called “special status”. Representatives of Ukrainian political parties see it as a temporary measure only while representatives of the Russian Federation and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions see it as a part of changes into the Constitution of Ukraine.

Powerful criticism of reintegration plans which comes from a part of the society and some political forces (especially the right-wing ones) should not be forgotten either. There is a certain risk that if there finally is some progress in the process, the society will not accept its results.

by analyst Vitaliy Syzov