According to former president Leonid Kuchma, local elections in the occupied areas of the Donbas are impossible under current conditions.
Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s representative in the so-called Tripartite Contact Group, has stated that holding local elections in the occupied territories of the Donbas without the implementation of all the Minsk agreements is unacceptable
“Under no circumstances can we agree to pass laws on elections and changes to the Constitution if we remain in the same situation,” Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv on Friday, January 22. “Every day they are shooting there (Donbas) and the number of attacks is increasing. They are bringing the heavy weapons; they are not withdrawing the foreign –or Russian — troops. They have no interest in discussing the Ukrainian-Russian border. And you have to understand that if we do not control our border, it is not our territory.”
He noted that in the area where almost 400 kilometers of the border is not controlled by Ukraine, Russia is doing “anything it wants.”
“The decisions of the Minsk Protocol need to be implemented: the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons. It is essential that the special OSCE mission verifies and states that that the weapons have been withdrawn.This has not been done either. Only then can we talk about any progress,” he said.
Kuchma stressed that elections cannot be held in uncontrolled territory. “How can we hold elections when we are being pressured from all sides? Where would we hold elections, on what territory? This is territory that we do not control. What is there to talk about?” he said.
Kuchma also posed a rhetorical question: if elections are held in the Donbas under such conditions, “whose territory would this belong to?”
The Ukrainian-Russian agreements that were concluded with the participation of the Donbas “separatists” in Minsk, Belarus, in 2014-2015 and are known as the Minsk agreements require not only a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the exchange of prisoners and hostages, but also the establishment of control and verification by the OSCE of the sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border that is not under Kyiv’s control. They also require the holding of local elections on the occupied territories according to Ukrainian law and under OSCE control, the return of direct Ukrainian control of the border, the granting of additional local powers to the regions and more. Russia is required to withdraw “foreign troops” and military equipment from the region.
However, Moscow’s official position is that Russians “are not there” except for the Russian “volunteers” that it does not control. Moscow provides no explanation for the source of the weaponry, including the latest Russian models. Russia has already declared that it has not assumed any obligations under the Minsk agreements and has no intention of carrying them out since it had signed the agreements only as a “guarantor” not as participant.