Discussions are taking place in Ukraine on cancelling ATO (Antiterrorist Operation), forming a new command structure for the Armed Forces and other military formations in the ATO zone, and declaring that portions of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts are occupied territories. What do we know about the possible future of the Donbas?
Discussions on cancelling the ATO (Antiterrorist operation). What has been proposed in the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC).
On June 13, NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov stated that Ukraine needs to move to a new format for protecting the country from Russia’s hybrid war and that this requires legislative cancellation of ATO.
The main provisions of the relevant bill would entail the determination on the legislative level of a complex of military and diplomatic steps designed to ensure the liberation of the occupied territories.
According to Turchynov, this decision should include:
- The recognition that the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are occupied;
- Giving the president the right to use the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations against Russia’s aggression;
- Establishing a permanent Operational Headquarters in the ATO zone for the integrated control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, all the security structures, as well as the military-civilian administrations.
Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) Chairman Andriy Parubiy explained that the draft law on changing the ATO format provides for the creation of a legislative framework that would allow for the use of all the security formations without additional procedural limitations.
What will replace ATO?
According to People’s Front deputy Dmytro Tymchuk, plans call for a military operation to replace ATO that would be directed not by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), as is the case presently, but by the new Operational Headquarters, as mentioned earlier. The president would oversee the Operational Headquarters and the General Staff.
Thus, the president would be given the right to determine the use of Armed Forces of Ukraine as well as other security forces, but under the general leadership of the military.
Return of the Donbas
President Petro Poroshenko began to speak about the necessity of reintegrating the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in early 2017 during discussions on the future of the Donbas. However, the topic drew wider attention when discussions began on the possibility of cancelling ATO.
On June 14, Poroshenko stated that he had ordered the drafting of legislation “On the reintegration of the occupied territories of the Donbas.” It provides for a number of measures for reintegrating the territories captured by the militants and is based on conditions secured by the Minsk agreements.
What does the reintegration of the Donbas foresee?
As Iryna Lutsenko, the president’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, explained, the need for the bill arose as a result of Russia’s actual withdrawal from the Minsk process. According to Andriy Parubiy, the relevant bill would provide for:
- Formal recognition that the occupied territories are occupied;
- Determination of the legal preconditions for conducting military operations;
- Solving problems of the people in the zone of conflict;
- Strategy for renewing sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Turchynov presented the concept for the law on the de-occupation of the Donbas during a meeting of the People’s Front faction, but the text of the draft law has not yet been completed.
Reintegration, cancellation of ATO, and martial law
Deputies disagreed on whether the president’s proposed reintegration project would mean the introduction of martial law.
The Secretary of the Committee on National Security and Defense of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc deputy Ivan Vinnyk, noted that the forthcoming draft law on changing the ATO format would need to provide for the introduction of martial law. He claims the law would state clearly that the occupied territories must first be liberated before being reintegrated or de-occupied.
The leader of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, Artur Herasymov, later stated that the introduction of martial law would not be regulated by the bill on reintegration.
In turn, the People’s Front deputy Dmytro Tymchuk noted that the bill on the restoration of state sovereignty over temporarily occupied territories allows for the introduction of martial law at the discretion of the president.
According to Turchynov, the current Ukrainian legislation provides for two main instances where the military use of the Armed Forces is permitted: declaration of war and anti-terrorist operations.
The introduction of martial law allows for the existence of a special legal regime in the country or in individual regions and does not provide automatic rights to use the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations.
Turchynov noted that this legislation was formed still during the last century on the basis of concepts of classic war. Therefore, it does not take into account the need to resist Russia’s hybrid aggression against Ukraine.
It is for that reason that the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine has proposed to change the ATO format in order to have other options for resolving the situation.
Poroshenko meets with Trump to agree on the return of the Donbas
Sources at People’s Front have informed the Insider publication that during his meeting with US President Donald Trump, Poroshenko will try to reach an agreement on the reintegration of the Donbas
Immediately after Poroshenko’s return from Washington, the bill on reintegration will be discussed at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council. Afterwards, it will be considered by the Verkhovna Rada.
The publication’s sources have also reported that the draft bill includes a reference to the Minsk agreements, so that Poroshenko would not be accused of withdrawing from “Minsk.”