How Ukraine Is Negotiating Fair Elections for Ukraine's Occupied Donbas
23 October, 2016

What You Need To Know:

✅  An armed OSCE police mission in eastern Ukraine would ensure security during local elections and the following 'transition' period
✅  Poroshenko: Conditions of elections include a lasting ceasefire, withdrawal of foreign troops, full access to the OSCE and release of all hostages. No date has been announced.
✅  A 'roadmap' based on the Minsk Agreement will outline how power will be handed over to legally elected representatives in Donetsk and Luhansk region.
✅  Olga Aivazovska : '(Ukraine) must have some points. First of all, it's time, it's talk, it's truth and it's trust'

Ensuring fair and secure local elections in parts of eastern Ukraine currently occupied by combined Russian military and separatist forces was a dominant theme at 'Normandy Format' talks on October 19-20. The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany agreed to draw up a new 'roadmap', aimed again at ensuring the 2014 Minsk Agreement for Donbas is adhered to. 

During the five-hour meeting, the leaders agreed that an armed police mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could potentially be deployed. Such an operation would involve OSCE personnel monitoring the uncontrolled parts of the Ukrainian-Russian border and ensuring security during elections and during the subsequent transition of power. 

"There's nothing new. According to the Minsk Agreement, we (Ukraine) is going to have border controls the next day following elections. But we must know and understand that the Russian side can have this control during the political transition period, electoral campaign, and so forth...", says Olga Aivazovska, a representative of Ukraine within the so-called 'Trilateral Contact Group'.

Ms. Aivazovska seems confident the OSCE's 57-member states would agree overall to such an armed police deployment to Donbas. Unlike the United Nations Security Council, Russia as no veto power within the OSCE. Yet, despite hours of political negotiations and guarantees, confidence that the Russian side will fulfill its obligations seems low.

"If we talk about good practices, we must have some points. First of all, it's time, it's talk, it's truth and it's trust. We have enough time to talk because there isn't a large (amount) of war activity from each side. We have talks in Minsk, on the 'Normandy Format', and so forth but we don't have trust and truth. We will have good results from the Ukrainian side", Ms. Aivazovska says. 

Unsurprisingly, Ukrainian political parties will have a chance to participate in future Donbas elections - but that's only one of many considerations. 

"It's also about media; not only about access for journalists. It's about broadcasting on those territories because, without that, no voter can access different resources of information. It's about IDP's (internally displaced people) because it's very important to have these voters who left their homes in that territory , even if they live in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, etc...."

There are still question marks over whether Kremlin-backed representatives will also be about to participate in any future elections.

"It depends on the electoral law. It depends on the period of amnesty and it depends on the amnesty laws too. So if we are talking about terrorists, I'm not sure they will have the opportunity to be a part of this electoral process."