Kiev wants to pass a law on autonomy for eastern Ukraine this week. Russia does not think this goes far enough. It said "something completely different" had been agreed.
The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is holding – with a few exceptions. Photo: dpa
Ukraine’s parliament is expected to pass a law in the coming days on the future autonomy status of rebel regions in the east of the country. The bill, introduced over the weekend by President Petro Poroshenko and made public on Monday, should be passed later this week, parliament speaker Volodimir Grojsman said. The plan is part of the peace agreement reached between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Feb. 12.
The law is intended to grant the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk a "special status" within Ukraine. This is to include, for example, preferential treatment of the Russian language and possible increased cooperation with Russia. Prerequisites are to be elections in accordance with Ukrainian law and under international observation, as well as the withdrawal of all weapons and armed groups.
It also calls for Ukrainian media to be able to report freely from regions designated by the separatists as people’s republics. The draft lists the Ukrainian state border with Russia to the east, the Sea of Azov to the south, and the front line toward the rest of Ukrainian territory, as defined in the Minsk Agreement, as the borders of the special-status part of the country.
However, the draft law does not go far enough for Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the submitted text fundamentally contradicts the Minsk peace agreement.
Ceasefire is respected
Lavrov accused the president of ignoring the leadership of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and also the economic crisis in eastern Ukraine. With the participation of Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, "something completely different" was agreed in Minsk on Feb. 12, he said.
"The most important thing now is to solve these problems," Lavrov stressed. The Ukraine Contact Group is responsible for this – however, the pro-Western leadership in Kiev is blocking the consultations, he said.
A ceasefire also agreed in the Minsk agreement is largely being observed. However, there is still sporadic fighting – according to observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, sometimes even with heavy weapons, which according to the Minsk agreement should have already been withdrawn. The Ukrainian side announced on Monday that one soldier had been killed within 24 hours.