Ukraine's Government Plan For De-Occupation of Donbas
21 June, 2017

How exactly are the Ukrainian authorities preparing for de-occupation of Donbas - the territories in eastern Ukraine, which were occupied in 2014 by Russia? What new approaches the Security and Defence Council proposes to the president of Ukraine? Until now there was only speculation about the content of the bill called “State policy on restoring Ukrainian sovereignty in the currently occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” following the announcement by the  Security and Defence Council last week.  No documents have been provided to the public.

In these circumstances, analysts and politicians have been talking about different scenarios, including reformatting of Minsk peace agreements and even the possibility of military developments.

Hromadske has received the draft of this document from its sources. The text fits on one page and consists of a preamble and six paragraphs. At the same time, the sources that gave Hromadske the document emphasise the fact that this is not the final version, and it may be amended and added to.

We analyse the key aspects of it.

Photo: Volodymyr Stumkovskiy\ UNIAN

President Poroshenko said that he himself ordered the preparation of the "State policy on restoring Ukrainian sovereignty in the currently occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions". The text's preamble, which the Head of the National Security and Defence Council, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced a week ago, recognizes that the anti-terrorist operation (or ATO) introduced in April 2014 doesn’t solve the problem of liberating the occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The draft law is currently in development. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, announced this after his first official meeting with the President of the United States, Donald Trump. “We are currently drafting a law. I would like to emphasise that there will be public discussions. Most points of view must be taken into account, and of course, presented to our foreign partners,” he said.

In the new Concept, President Poroshenko presents a new task: the de-occupation of the uncontrolled territories of Ukraine.

The legal regime of the ATO allows for the expansion of Russian aggression and localise it in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It also allows for presidential, parliamentary and local elections to take place. However, the chance in tasks requires a new legal framework; hence, the new concept was born.

“The proposed bill should create the necessary legal and organisational conditions for restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, expanding opportunities for the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations, while at the same time, not acting outside the framework of the Minsk ceasefire agreements,” the document states.

On June 15, 2017, the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, Oleksandr Lytvynenko, announced the approval of the draft law. Later the head of the National Security and Defence Council Oleksandr Turchynov presented the concept for the document to his political allies.

Ukrainian raiders in Donetsk region, 2014. Photo: EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

► Using Ukrainian Armed Forces to restore territorial integrity of Ukraine

In his comments to Hromadske, the Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker, Andriy Parubiy, highlighted that using the Armed Forces for the restoration of territorial integrity is one of the key points in the Concept:

"At the start of Russia’s aggression, legally we only had two options, and they were an anti-terrorist operation or the introduction of martial law. We couldn’t introduce martial law at the time because it restricted the democratic procedure. In particular, it did not allow for elections. It was important for us that we held presidential, parliamentary and local elections (they took place after the revolution on Maidan and in 2014 - ed.). Now, a format is being legally issued for military action,” said the Speaker of the Parliament.

"In the period of enacting this law, the President of Ukraine, in accordance with the established procedure, may decide to introduce a legal regime of martial law. The President may also decide on the use of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the containment and rebuffing of armed aggression, guaranteeing security and defence of state borders, the separation line, and the rebuffing of attacks which threaten the life of soldiers or other citizens."

► Creating an operational headquarters for Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Through the creation of a an operational headquarters, the presidential hierarchy aims to have manual control of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

At the same time, deputies from the Ukrainian Party 'People's Front' say informally that there are discussions about giving the operational headquarters the right to decide what goods can be moved between temporary occupied territories and the rest of Ukraine. The National Security and Defence Council made a ban-list on March 15 as a result of the DPR and the LPR's seizure of Ukrainian factories which paid taxes to the Ukrainian state.

"To directly guide the measures to ensure national security in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the forces and assets that are involved in their implementation, an operational headquarters will be set up. The operational headquarters is responsible for planning, organizing and controlling tasks of defense, state, economic, informational and environmental security in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The operational headquarters is under the control of the President of Ukraine, and on defense matters subordinate to the Chief of the General Staff–the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The President of Ukraine appoints and dismisses a leader for this office."

President Poroshenko said that he himself ordered to prepare the draft law. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

► Under which laws people in Donetsk and Luhansk will have to live

The Concept suggests that the laws the Ukrainian Parliament passed after the Russian occupation of Crimea on April 15, 2014, will govern livelihoods in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In particular, the law provides that the temporarily occupied territory is an integral part of Ukraine, which is subject to the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.

"In certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where the Ukrainian state authorities temporarily do not exercise power, the legal regime of the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine applies."

At the same time, activities subject to state regulation (licensing, obtaining permits, certification, etc.), economic activity, import and/or export of military goods, and the organization of railway, road, sea, river, ferry, or air connections are prohibited in these territories.

It is also forbidden to use public resources, including natural, financial and credit, and to send remittances. Citizens of Ukraine have the right to free and unimpeded entry and exit into the temporarily occupied territory through checkpoints, provided they present documents verifying identity and confirming Ukrainian citizenship.

► The authors of the Concept also offer a legislative basis for the restoration of sovereignty

Since the beginning of the war in Donbas, deputies have passed several laws on the particularities of the implementation of local government in the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, and even adopted the first amendments to the Constitution after the first reading. The project proposes the restoration of sovereignty on the basis of national and international legislation. There are no details as of yet.

Citizens of Ukraine have the right to free and unimpeded entry and exit into the temporarily occupied territory through checkpoints. EPA/IVAN BOBERSKYY

► The document describes the purpose, but not the means that will be used to restore sovereignty

The purpose of the state policy on the restoration of sovereignty over the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is: the liberation of the occupied territories and the restoration of the constitutional order throughout the territory of Ukraine; the protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of Ukrainian citizens who suffered as a result of Russian aggression; the strengthening of independence, state sovereignty and unity of the independent, sovereign, democratic, legal, and social Ukrainian state.

► It includes the restoration of prescribed borders and the maintenance of the Minsk peace agreements (at least formally)

The state policy for restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine is based on the following principles: restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity at an internationally recognized border; compliance with Ukraine’s international obligations and international law; advanced development of defense and security capabilities of Ukraine; prioritizing the implementation of the security provisions set forth in the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014, the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014 and the Action Plan on Implementing the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015 as prerequisites for a political settlement; the use of all legal opportunities for the protection of the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens and the full promotion of the restoration and development of humanitarian and cultural ties with citizens of Ukraine residing in temporarily occupied territories; self-reliance on maximizing the potential of international cooperation both bilaterally and using the capabilities and tools of international organizations. 

The Concept text does not specify who exactly occupied certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Mainly this document lays out the need for the de-occupation of territory that is not currently controlled by Ukraine. A potential new regime for the management of the territory and the priority of diplomatic means of de-occupation is prescribed, but the details of the de-occupation plan (if any) are not yet available.

by Nataliya Gumenyuk, Maxym Kamenev

Translated by Eilish Hart, Sofia Fedeczko