: Elections in Donbas: Two years of negotiations bring no progress

15:24 Apr. 12, 2016

Elections in Donbas: Two years of negotiations bring no progress

An armed pro-Russian separatist walks on a street in the Zaytseve village of Donetsk area, Ukraine on March 14, 2016 (Getty Images)

Russian-backed separatists' demands and ceasefire violations block peaceful resolution 

"The elections in the separatist-controlled regions of Donbas could theoretically be held in April 2016".

This was the statement by a Ukrainian MP Yuriy Lutsenko in last October. His words followed a "Normandy Four" meeting in Paris, where the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia extended the terms of the Minsk deal to 2016. 

French President Francois Hollande stated that day, "the election campaign must be held according to a special law which Ukraine has to adopt".

The text of this law should have been agreed upon at the Trilateral Contact group meetings in Minsk. However, April has arrived and no consensus has been reached as of yet.

According to Ukraine's rep at the contact group Roman Bezsmertnyi, the Kremlin-backed separatists want to have a "wide autonomy, which will allow them to have their own president, parliament and army".

Kyiv categorically denies such conditions. And with the recent spike in military battles near Avdiivka, the security issue seems to be of utmost importance. 

PACE rapporteurs also question the possibility of the elections in their report. Marieluise Beck and Kristýna Zelienková recently tried to access the areas temporarily not controlled by the government, but were unable to do so for "security reasons".

"If the two of us could not travel safely in the occupied territories for a day or two, how can free and fair elections be held in this region anytime soon?", they concluded in a joint report.

OSCE patrols could help establish peace during the elections, but only if they were armed. This is according to a recent statement made by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko in an interview with local journalists. Poroshenko stated unarmed monitors cannot be effective because they face threats from the militants.

"Armed police units of the OSCE will guarantee preparation and holding of elections, as well as the regime of transferring power to officials chosen by democratic, fair and transparent elections under the Ukrainian legislation," the President said

But this idea has been repeatedly dismissed by Russia's rep at the contact group Boris Gryzlov. He claims the presence of armed police will only "increase the tension".

His words are echoed by the self-proclaimed Russian-backed separatist leaders. They keep voicing their own demands without any signs of a compromise. Based on the dynamics of the negotiations, local and international experts see no prerequisites for any possible elections this year.


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