Article by: Levko Stek
The statements made by the representatives of the “DNR” and “LNR” in Minsk concerning the “postponement of elections” in the occupied territories have been ambiguously perceived by the residents. On October 6, Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinega announced that the local elections in territories controlled by the “DNR” and “LNR” will take place next year. Ihor Plotnytsky, leader of the “LNR”, added that the agreements in Minsk and Paris represent the best option for the “republics”, while ordinary residents of these territories maintain that “DNR” and “LNR” projects have failed.
The so-called “elections” in the territories controlled by the “DNR” are scheduled for October 18, and in the occupied part of Luhansk Oblast on November 1. However, at the last meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group, the representatives the “DNR” and “LNR”, Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinega reported that these “elections” will be postponed until the beginning of 2016 and stressed that this decision was approved by the Normandy Four in Paris.
The separatist leaders are trying to convince local residents that this agreement is a great achievement by their respective groups and deny that these regions will be returned to Ukrainian authorities. The leader of the “LNR”, Ihor Plotnytsky also said that in order for elections to be held in the Donbas under Ukrainian legislation, Ukraine must guarantee amnesty for the separatist fighters, adopt a law on the special status of the occupied territories and draw up an agreement with the separatists about laws on local elections.
“The terms of the Minsk Agreement that we achieved and that Ukraine signed are the best option for us to regain our territories without spilling a drop of blood. First, no one will betray us. Secondly, we do not surrender. Thirdly, we did not shed our blood in vain just to yield and go back to the banderite regime. This will not happen!” said Plotnytsky.
Why were homes destroyed and why did people die! – resident of Donetsk
However, the position of the “LNR” leader is completely out of tune with the feelings of the local population regarding the “postponement of the elections”. The inhabitants of the occupied territories agreed to talk with Radio Liberty reporters only on condition of anonymity because they know that they may suffer for any comments made to Ukrainian media.
According to one Donetsk resident, people do not view the Minsk Agreements and the “postponed elections” in a very positive light. One lady talked openly about “betrayal and collapse of their projects”.
Many locals have started wailing and complaining about what’s been happening in the Donbas for the past year and a half. The people who want this region to separate from Ukraine are asking what they have been fighting for, why so many have died and why their homes were destroyed…. Why if the “republics” are returned to Ukraine?” said one woman.
Everyone understood that the “elections” would be fictitious! – resident of Donetsk
Another resident of the regional centre said that local residents who support the separatists want the hostilities to end as soon as possible, but still hope to retain the so-called “republican status” for the occupied territories. However, these people feel that postponing the “elections” points to another outcome and “discredits the present separatist government in Donetsk”.
He adds that even before news of the postponed elections was announced, the local population did not believe the elections would be fair. Despite the significant number of political slogans that can still be seen in the streets, there was no real pre-election campaign or debate.
“Everyone knew that even the “elections” scheduled for October 18 would be totally fictitious, that there would be no one to vote for. It was perfectly clear that all the candidates were already in place; the slogans and posters were always touting one particular person in one particular city. No other information was available… anywhere. But now, how are they are going to explain that even these candidates are worthless and they will have to remove everyone from the billboards. I honestly can’t see how Pushilin or Zakharchenko will explain this to the people.” said one man.
According to the representatives of the “DNR” and “LNR”, new local elections may take place in the occupied territories on February 21, 2016.