The Ukrainian government will work alongside “the whole community of Ukraine” as it writes the new law on the special status of the Donbas, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video message published by Radio LIberty.
“There will be a new law. Will we draft it ourselves and pass it quickly? No. We will write it together, in cooperation and public discussion with the whole community of Ukraine, without crossing a single red line. So, there is no capitulation, no surrendering of Ukraine’s national interests,” Zelensky said, as cited by Radio Liberty.
He promised that he would “never hand over Ukraine”.
“Do we want an end to the war and the return of all Ukrainian territories? Yes. Today there is a single platform where these issues can be discussed at the highest level – meeting in the Normandy Format. Could it have happened soon? No. Why? Because on the road to this there was a single obstacle – the biggest horror story in recent weeks – the Steinmeier Formula,” Zelensky said.
The president remarked that the formula does not propose to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or to hand over the Donbas, neither does it propose that elections be held in the occupied parts of eastern Ukraine “tomorrow and at gun point”.
“This formula talks about one thing only: when the so-called law on the special status of the Donbas should take effect. Namely, after local elections are held there, in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, legislation of Ukraine, and after the OSCE reports that the elections were done in accordance with international democratic standards. That is what Ukraine agreed to in Minsk,” Zelensky explained.
He pointed out that Ukraine did not sign the same agreements as the Russia-backed separatist groups known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR).
Zelensky added that, with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia, he intends to discuss ways to put an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“We all understand that the Donbas is Ukraine. And peace must prevail there, there must be a full ceasefire and withdrawal of foreign armed groups. We all understand that on our side of the Russian-Ukrainian border there have to be Ukrainian border guards. There must be a prisoner exchange, so that all of our citizens can come home. And elections must be held, not at gunpoint, but in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, with access for candidates from the Ukrainian political forces, the Ukrainian media, and international observers,” the president emphasized.
At a press conference in Kyiv on October 1, President Zelensky said that Ukraine had agreed to the text of the Steinmeier Formula at the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk.
He emphasized that elections could only take place in the occupied Donbas territories if Kyiv is given full control of the parts of the Russian border in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are currently not under its control.
On September 12, Zelensky said that Kyiv would insist on a Normandy Format session in September. He said that the leaders of the four represented countries would discuss the “Steinmeier Formula and all aspects of the Minsk Agreements”.
The formula was proposed by former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He said that the Donbas should be given a “special status” on the day that elections are held in the occupied territories, with the simultaneous withdrawal of illegal armed groups.