Ukraine passes bill on war-torn eastern regions

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Map of the conflict zone showing lines drawn by the 2015 Minsk agreement.
Image: Goran tek-en. (Reuse terms.)

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a new bill called the "Donbass reintegration law". It describes the regions — oblasts — of Donetsk and Luhansk as being "temporarily occupied" by Russia and declares Russia to be the "aggressor".

The bill calls for a return of the regions to Ukrainian control by military force if necessary. There is no mention of the February 2015 Minsk agreement which was signed by the Ukrainian government and rebel groups, and brokered by France and Germany.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated on Twitter, "We will continue to pave the way for reintegration of the occupied Ukrainian lands through political and diplomatic steps." ((ukr)) Ukrainian language: Ми продовжуватимемо прокладати шлях для реінтеграції окупованих українських земель політико-дипломатичним шляхом. Former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said this forms a legal basis for a United Nations peacekeeping force to "remove the Russian army from Ukrainian territory". Legislator Ivan Vinnyk commented on why the Minsk agreement was not mentioned in the bill: "We can't embed diplomatic and political agreements that are prone to change into the Ukrainian legislation".

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Poroshenko (right) meet face to face at the ASEM Summit in 2014.
Image: Kremlin.ru. (Reuse terms.)

Russia's foreign ministry quickly denounced the law and claimed it was proof Ukraine is preparing for a new war. Furthermore, the law "risked a dangerous escalation in Ukraine with unpredictable consequences for world peace and security", the official statement said.

"Kiev has gone from sabotaging the Minsk agreements to burying them," said Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the Federation Council in Russia. Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of one of the rebel groups in eastern Ukraine, also expressed sharp criticism. Zakharchenko said it was a violation of the Minsk agreement and could lead to an escalation of the armed conflict.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine began shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has by reports claimed over 10,000 lives. About 1.7 million people, Al Jazeera reports, have been displaced from their homes due to the fighting.


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