Constitutional change in Ukraine gives Putin three victories, Illarionov says

The building of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament)

The building of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) 

2015/07/19 • Analysis & Opinion, Ukraine, War in the Donbas

By including in the Ukrainian constitutional provision specifying that Kyiv will come up with a new law governing certain portions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the Verkhovna Rada has in effect adopted “a pro-Putin constitutional model for Ukraine” and given the Kremlin leader three dangerous victories over Kyiv, according to Andrey Illarionov.

In a commentary on Kasparov.ru yesterday, the Russian analyst says that supporters of the changes, including Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, downplay their significance, arguing that they are not as far-reaching as opponents, who call them an act of national betrayal insist.

The specific language of the change in Article 18, Illarionov continues, reads as follows: “The special features of the realization of local self-administration in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts will be defined by a separate law” to be adopted at some later point.

“Strictly speaking,” he continues, this gives some basis for the conflicting interpretations. Obviously, “the special features of local self-administration cannot be called a status.” But the fact that this is now included in the Constitution itself and draws a distinction between parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and all other parts of Ukraine makes it more like one.

According to Illarionov, this new provision has “at a minimum, three essential characteristics” each of which works for Vladimir Putin and against Ukraine.

  • First of all, it represents a fulfillment of part of the Minsk-2 Accords; and “in the event that the Ukrainian authorities accidentally ‘forget’ about this, they will beyond any doubt be reminded of it by their Western allies in the shape of Obama, Kerry, and Nuland who in turn will say that the Ukrainians must meet the Minsk Accords regardless of whether Russia does or not.”
  • Second, the adoption of this constitutional change effectively annuls the earlier decision by Kyiv to declare the Eastern Donbas “occupied territories.” That in turn means “either that the Ukrainian authorities control this territory themselves or they have agreed with those who control this territory now … the beginning of de facto legitimation of the separatists by Kyiv.”
  • And third, by approving this amendment, the Verkhovna Rada has in fact come out in support of something Putin had been asserting “without particular success” earlier: “the occupied Donbas is not like occupied Crimea, but occupied Crimea is not like occupied Donbas,” thereby undermining Ukraine’s claim to Crimea as well.

Illarionov says that “the next ‘legal’ steps for undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine are completely predictable. The Constitutional Court will give a positive assessment of the Law adopted yesterday.” Then, the Verkhovna Rada “before the end of the year” will adopt on second reading the amendments. And then on the basis of that, the Ukrainian legislature will adopt a special law about “the special features of local self-administration in the Eastern Donbas.”

What is perhaps worst of all, he suggests, is that this is being done by the Ukrainians themselves at the behest of the West even though such steps will only strengthen “a pro-Putin constitutional model for Ukraine” and weaken Ukraine as a state with the right to make decisions for itself.

Edited by: A. N.

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