Head of the President’s Office Andriy Yermak has said the holding of elections in the temporarily uncontrolled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Donbas (eastern Ukraine) is possible only after their complete de-occupation and settlement of all security issues, as well as those related to human rights.
The comment came during a “Freedom of Speech by Savik Shuster” panel show on Ukraine TV channel on September 18, as reported by the President’s Office on its website.
Yermak stressed that only the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, will deal with changes to the resolution on local elections across Ukraine, in terms of their holding in Donbas.
“Neither politicians in Ukraine, let alone politicians from the outside, can promise something and say that something will be adopted,” he said.
“When we held a meeting in Berlin [on September 11], I informed the representatives of the Normandy Four [Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia] that the Verkhovna Rada had indeed registered a resolution on amendments to the resolution on holding local elections. It was submitted by MP [Oleksandr] Kachura that day. So, it is the Verkhovna Rada that will make a decision on when it [the document] will be presented in the session hall to decide its fate,” he said.
The official believes that the decision “should be made in accordance with the interests of the state, as well as obligations and the norms of international law.”
“I think all Ukrainians are already accustomed to the fact that everything that President Zelensky promises, he fulfills. Therefore, I have no doubt that during his tenure, Zelensky will end this war,” Yermak added.
Idea of local elections in occupied territories: background:
* Russia sees the Minsk agreements as tools with which to break Ukraine`s sovereignty. Its interpretation reverses key elements in the sequence of actions: elections in occupied Donbas would take place before Ukraine had reclaimed control of the border; this would be followed by comprehensive autonomy for Russia`s proxy regimes, crippling the central authorities in Kyiv. Ukraine would be unable to govern itself effectively or orient itself towards the West, according to Chatham House.
* On July 15, 2020, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution scheduling local elections across Ukraine for October 25. Legislators note that the elections in the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas shall not be scheduled or held. On August 19, at a meeting of the delegates to the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas settlement, Ukraine’s delegation chief, first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk informed the team members of the appeal he had submitted to the Verkhovna Rada to consider the issue of the resolution’s compliance with Law “On a special procedure for local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” and a Package of Measures for the implementation of Minsk agreements.
* On August 20, journalist Serhiy Harmash, another member of Ukraine’s delegation representing certain areas of Donetsk region, opined that by “leaking” to the media a document demanding to cancel the decision of the Verkhovna Rada on local elections, Moscow, makes it impossible to fulfill the requirement or even put the relevant question before Parliament. Harmash believes that in this way Russia has deliberately driven the settlement process into a dead end, thus blocking a meeting of advisors to the Normandy Four (Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia) leaders earlier scheduled for late August.
* On the same day, Kravchuk said that Russia was blocking the TCG work with a demand to repeal the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada on the impossibility of holding local elections in the occupied territories. At the TCG meeting on August 19, he said, representatives of the Russian Federation and their proxy forces in Donbas stated that they “do not object to the elections being held throughout Ukraine,” but demand that the paragraph on the impossibility of voting in the occupied territories be repealed.
* On September 11, Berlin hosted a meeting of political advisors to the leaders of the Normandy Four member states. According to the Office of the President of Ukraine, the advisors supported Kyiv’s call to take exhaustive measures to extend a sustainable and comprehensive ceasefire in Donbas.
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