Zelensky: elections in the Donbass can take place only after the withdrawal of troops
Elections to local authorities in the Donbass, stipulated by the Minsk agreements, will be possible only after the separation of forces along the entire line of contact and should be held in accordance with Ukrainian laws. This, according to TASS, was announced on Friday by the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, speaking at the Yalta European Strategy forum, where he announced the preparation of the next stage of the exchange of held persons with the Russian Federation
“This is a matter of exchanging people first, then troop withdrawal. Now we are talking about breeding in Zolotoy and Petrovsky, then throughout the territory, and this is 400 km. And only after that we can talk about the format of the elections,” he said. “Local elections there should be, but according to Ukrainian law. "
"We must end the war and return our territories. I have repeatedly said that diplomacy is the only way to do this. And powerful and effective weapons are precisely sanctions," Zelensky said.
He believes that sanctions against Russia should be maintained until peace is established in the Donbass, but sometimes international partners talk about the possibility of lifting them. According to him, sanctions are a kind of taxes on the world. “If you like, this is a tax for the world. And until it is renewed, sanctions must be maintained,” the president added.
The peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Donbass is based on the so-called Minsk agreements. They include not only a ceasefire, the removal of weapons, the creation of security zones, an amnesty, the resumption of economic ties and social benefits to the residents of Donbass, but also the implementation of constitutional reform in Ukraine, as a result of which special districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions must be granted special management status.
At the end of 2015, the then Foreign Minister of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, proposed an option called the Steinmeier Formula, which proposed a mechanism for granting Donbass a special status, as required by the Minsk agreements.
It involves the enactment of the Ukrainian law on a special procedure for local self-government in certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions on a temporary basis on the day of local elections in the Donbass and on an ongoing basis after the publication of the OSCE report on their results.
At the same time, the President of Ukraine expressed the hope that the process of withdrawal of troops that had begun at previously agreed areas in the Donbass would continue as soon as possible. “As for the troop withdrawal, this is also a very sensitive topic. We deployed troops in Stanitsa Lugansk. There is no shooting there. We began to build a bridge there. The next stage is the breeding in Petrovsky and Zolotoy. I think we will come to this in the coming weeks.” – said Vladimir Zelensky.
Back in 2016, an agreement was reached in the Contact Group for Settlement in the East of Ukraine to establish security zones on the contact line in the Donbass. The first three were to appear on sites in the area of the settlements of Stanitsa Luganskaya, Petrovskoye and Zolotoe. But the process that had begun came to naught. This summer, the Contact Group has again returned to this agreement. It was possible to withdraw troops in the area of the Village of Lugansk, but so far there is no advance in the other two sections.
However, the head of state is cautious about the proposal for the introduction of peacekeepers in Donbass. “I am very careful about the topic of peacekeepers. I don’t want Donbass and I to have a scenario of Abkhazia or Transnistria, so I’m very careful, so I don’t raise this issue,” he said.
Zelensky added that this is why the representative of Kiev in the Contact Group for Settlement in the East of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma does not raise this topic in Minsk. At the same time, the President noted that he would be "satisfied if the peacekeepers were on the border of Ukraine and Russia."