Donbas to get ′very limited self-rule′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.09.2014
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Donbas to get 'very limited self-rule'

The parliament in Kyiv has adopted legislation giving the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine limited self-rule. DW asked political analyst Arkady Moshes to explain.

The provisions for the special status were agreed in a European-brokered peace plan signed with pro-Russian insurgents and Moscow on September 5. They include broader autonomy for the rebel-held areas of the mainly-Russian speaking regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which together are known as the "Donbas," for a temporary three-year period. For the people living in this highly industrialized area, this means local elections will be held in certain districts on December 7, Russian language will be allowed in state institutions and regional councils will be allowed to appoint local judges and prosecutors.

Another bill on amnesty protects from criminal prosecution "participants of events in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions" - appearing to apply to both the insurgents and Ukrainian government troops.

Deutsche Welle: What exactly does 'limited self-rule' mean?

Arkady Moshes: That's actually not such a simple question. The people in certain territories would be able to elect government officials. But this is a really limited self-rule.

Is this going to be enough for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine?

No, absolutely not. It was surprising for me in the first place to see that in the peace plan dated September 5 that all the sides committed to, that this point was actually accepted by all parties because the very title of the original agreement that it's about the temporary order of local self-governance in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is very far from their expectation and the claim that they should go all the way to formal independence.

Since then, we've heard a number of statements from the rebels that they would not be satisfied with that. Therefore I think that this law can actually, unfortunately, turn out to be irrelevant beside the fact that the ceasefire does not actually hold. The lower-intensity conflict goes on, so the situation and the ceasefire are very fragile.

Arkady Moshes

Arkady Moshes is an expert on Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy

Do you think this will lead the separatists to become even bolder and push even harder?

The situation is volatile. No, I don't think that they can push even harder in order to achieve a little bit more. Their expectations and their demands are qualitatively different from the amount of self-rule that the Ukrainian parliament and the Ukrainian authorities can grant them, but I also believe that the decision will eventually be taken in Moscow whether its acceptable or not.

Elections are scheduled for December 7 in these regions. Do you think that could lead to an increase conflict between Kyiv and whoever might be elected?

That depends. It's too early to tell. First we will need to see what kind of parliament and what kind of government will be in Kyiv after the Ukrainian general election on October 26. I'd say there's still hope that after these people are elected on December 7 it will be possible to establish at least some kind of a dialogue between them and the authorities in Kyiv. But it's three months now - still largely unpredictable.

Is the Donbas' special status positive or negative for Russia?

Russian representatives agreed to the peace plan of September 5. There is probably a certain reasoning behind the fact that this might be acceptable for Russia. The alternative for Russia would be then, at least, to take full responsibility for the breakaway territory - to fund it, to finance it, to send humanitarian assistance so the people could survive the winter - rather than sharing responsibility with the Ukrainian authorities. So clearly, there were people in Moscow who expected that this would be an outcome – they couldn't expect otherwise.´

Why was there a limit of three years put on this law by Ukraine?

Well in fact this is very difficult to answer. Probably, from a practical point of view, this time looks long enough so the local authorities there could plan their future and could work, not really paying attention to most immediate concerns and not really being afraid of losing self-rule too soon. But at the same time, Ukraine probably can't grant any longer period of time because then it would look like an agreement with a de-facto frozen conflict, which is politically unacceptable for any political force that might be there in Kyiv.

Arkady Moshes is Program Director for The EU's Eastern Neighborhood and Russia research programmed, Russia-EU relations, internal and foreign policy of Ukraine and Belarus with the Finnish institute of international affairs.

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