What Will the Reintegration of Donbas Look Like?
26 January, 2017

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk spoke to Vadym Chernysh from the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced People on January 25nd, 2017 in Kyiv.

What you need to know:

✅ Ukrainian government wants to reintegrate Donbas region with its Action Plan

✅ The Action Plan involves coordinated work among mltiple ministries and aimes to carry out the processes like fighting corruption and reforming education simultaniously.

There was this new plan of reintegration of Donbas by the government, which had become public. What are the key things we need to know? What does the Ukrainian government propose to the population, to the country as the way for…?
This action plan is very important. That’s a key message to all Ukrainians, who live within non-controlled areas. That they are Ukrainians and the Government is going to do all its best in order to reintegrate them by a non-military solution. The first important thing to understand – no military solution for this conflict. Another very important thing, from my point of view, different ways to do that – in education, in culture, in business. All things in this action plan are in order to achieve our goal. The main and very important goal is to reintegrate those people in one united Ukrainian society.

It sounds all good, but the usual critic that it’s all hardly possible. What are the tools?
You can find easily that action plan some practical things that we can implement, for example, in the business area, we are going to use some, simplify some procedures for business structures, for business entities working in non-controlled areas. We are going to support the process of paying regular salaries to their workers, who work for Ukrainian state-companies. One of our proposals with the minister of education is to let children from non-controlled areas enroll in courses in government-controlled areas and even enter Ukrainian universities. There are a lot of things in that plan that we should implement in this plan in order to keep those people closer to rest of Ukraine.
And what will be the first step?

This is not a linear process; a lot of things should be done in parallel. For example, if we are talking about the contact line, we should pay attention to some signals from grassroots about corruption. We should act; we should find an appropriate way to fight corruption at the contact line--in checkpoints or along the contact line. It doesn’t mean that we should wait; the process should be implemented. Then, after all things with corruption, we should start some process in the educational area. So all things should be implemented in parallel. That’s the key element of the plan. All ministers, all central agencies should be involved and should start all together.

What is the current position, as far as that we know, that was in the public sphere that law enforcement agents, security ministers, the Minister of Defense? To what extend have they been involved, because without their participation, you can’t really do much?
In that plan, we as a government are a leading body. It means that all civilian authorities should be involved, in this in very close cooperation with the Secret Service and with some border protection authority. It means that before this plan, all of them send us their formal approval of this, because they are in the plan. Some consent was received from those authorities before this plan was implemented by the government.
We can speak about Ukrainian parliament, the deputy speaker Oksana Syroid, who is a heavyweight in public discussions out of the public politicians, heavily criticized the plan calling it pro-Russian and says that any concessions can be done. The fact that we have to prove that these territories are under Russian occupation would be the better way forward. How are you going to deal with that and what will be the role of the parliament?
She represents opposition in the Ukrainian parliament. That is her role to criticize the Ukrainian government but at the same time, I don’t think that our strategic approach is pro-Russian. Because you know, even some international documents highlight this conflict and we can use during this conflict. We understand that and our partners understand that this conflict is based on the principal of effective control. That means that Russia controls those people, who are ruling those territories--with participation of Russian troops and special services. That means that we follow even the recommendation of the Council of Europe, for example. No problem with that from my point of view.
What do you think are the main obstacles and how would you like to move forward with that?
Political risks and implementation capacities of some authorities,
What are they?

Like you mentioned above, for example, criticisms from some policy-makers. Trying to adopt some regulations or even law in the Verkhovna Rada to block these activities from the government.
Who are you allies?
The President, the Prime Minister; you have heard the official statements about support.
How do you want to reach out to people in the occupied territories? It’s good to have plan in Kyiv, maybe in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.
You can find in that plan one prevision about information policy and even about our strategic approach to reach those people. We are going to use social media, even newspapers at checkpoints close to contact line in order to disseminate this information about governmental strategy.
If to speak, in very simple terms, to explain to a common person in Donetsk or in Luhansk: The Ukrainian government proposes ABC, how would you put it? What would the message say?
It depends. For example, if we are going to discuss this with someone who works for the Ukrainian railway station, we should highlight that we will do our best as a government to support those state companies--to pay them a regular salary and to have that connectivity with the rest of Ukraine. If we are talking about people, who everyday try to cross the contact line, we should explain to them that we are going to do our best to simplify all procedures, to let them into controlled territories without additional restrictions. You can use your VISA issued by Ukrainian banks, etc. It depends.
That’s good that we have this plan. People from Crimea will ask what will be the plan for Crimea?

We have elaborating similar documents for Crimea and we have been working closely to NGOs and with some international partners. Then we will discuss it with central authorities. Only after the final stage of discussing will we submit it to the government.
Any time frame?
I think approximately it can take one month.