The Ukrainian parliament has sent the new draft law on the country’s occupied territories onward to President Petro Poroshenko for his signature.
On February 8, parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy signed the bill, which has been in the works since the summer of 2017. Popularly known as the Donbas “de-occupation law,” the bill actually does little to de-occupy the country’s eastern region, which is partially controlled by Russia-led separatists.
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Instead, it seeks to establish state policy toward the region. Among the key provisions, it recognizes parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as “temporarily occupied” and declares Russia an “aggressor state.”
The law also places legal responsibility on Russia for destruction caused by the war — albeit only in Ukrainian courts — and allows Ukrainian state institutions to recognize birth and death certificates issued in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.”
However, there are also several controversial provisions of the draft law. Rights activists and some MPs have criticized the law for granting expanded powers to Ukraine’s military and security agencies. They have also suggested that many of its provisions remain vague.
The law will allow the commander of Ukraine’s Joint Forces to restrict travel between government- and separatist-controlled territory for security reasons.
“But the question is whether it will be misused,” Ukrainian MP and Donbas native Oleksandr Ryabchyn — who voted for the bill — told Hromadske last month. “This is the question we need to answer further. I hope with the help of the human rights organizations, we will be able to control the military [to prevent] misusing the law.”
On January 18, the Ukrainian Parliament passed the so-called “de-occupation” bill in the first reading. Afterwards, the Opposition Bloc political party registered a resolution calling for the bill to be nullified. That resolution blocked movement on the document until the February 6 general session, when the MPs voted against the resolution.
/By Matthew Kupfer