Volker: No Donbas elections until Russian troops are withdrawn
US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said that Ukraine’s international partners will not pressurize it to hold elections in the Donbas while there are still Russia-controlled forces in the region.
“I don’t see a scenario where Ukraine is pushed toward holding elections while the territories remain occupied. The ‘Steinmeier Formula can only be implemented after elections have been held,” Volker told the TV channel 1+1 in an interview.
He said that in order to hold free and fair elections, a “free, peaceful and safe environment” is needed. “Safety first,” the diplomat stressed.
“I often communicate with my French and German colleagues, and I know that they don’t see opportunities to hold local elections in an environment that is still controlled by Russian forces,” Volker assured.
He clarified that in order for the “Steinmeier Formula” to be implemented, Russia must first withdraw its troops.
The illegal armed groups backed by Russia must be disbanded, and stability must be restored to the region.
Volker emphasized: “The Steinmeier Formula starts with elections, but first we need to reach this point, for there to be free elections.”
Commenting on a possible lifting of the sanctions on Russia, the US special representative promised that the sanctions related to Russia’s occupation of Crimea will remain in force for as long as Russia continues to occupy the peninsula.
However, he remarked that if Russia implements the Minsk Agreements, the US will consider easing the sanctions imposed in connection with Russia’s failure to implement these agreements.
Recently there has been active discussion of the Steinmeier Formula, which proposes a mechanism for holding elections in the parts of the Donbas not currently under Kyiv’s control. The initiative envisages a special legislative status for the region, elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, and monitoring by the OSCE.
The Steinmeier Formula will be discussed during the upcoming Normandy Format summit (Germany, France, Ukraine, Russia).