Zelensky: Donbas autonomy unacceptable

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a press marathon that the bill on local self-governance in the separate Donetsk and Luhansk regions cannot imply autonomy for the Donbas, but certain humanitarian issues are open for discussion, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

“As for the law on the special status – we cannot talk about autonomy in this law. The important thing now is to talk about what we can’t do, and not what we can do. I know that there are humanitarian issues there, we will also discuss the matter of language – for them to have Russian as a regional language. I think that there are many humanitarian compromises that we can talk about,” Zelensky said.

He also said that, because the text of the new bill has not been finalized, it is too early to say which compromises Ukraine is willing to make.

“I know that previously there were many conditions for the special status law, but they will sort themselves out because we, as a country, have decided to go through decentralization,” Zelensky added.

In April last year, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov put forward his plan for the peaceful restoration of the Donbas. Among other things, he proposed to gradually introduce UN peacekeepers in the occupied territories. Then, he proposed that Ukraine pass a law granting amnesty to collaborators and give a special economic status to the restored territories so that they can recover more rapidly.

On October 1 this year in Minsk, representatives of the Trilateral Contact Group and the separatist republics agreed to implement the so-called Steinmeier Formula into Ukrainian legislation. Ukraine refused to sign the same document as the separatists, and so the parties signed separate letters addressed to the OSCE.

The formula envisages a special status for the Donbas that takes temporary effect the day that snap local elections are held there. The law will remain in effect permanently if the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights reports that the elections were democratic and fair.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko stressed recently that the formula “means nothing” without two laws that have yet to be passed.

  Zelensky, Donbas