Ukraine’s draft law on reintegrating Donbas finally says it’s under Russian occupation

Celebrations of the anniversary of the so-called "referendum" of the "Donetsk People's Republic" on 11 May 2015. Photo: RFE/RL 


Article by: Alya Shandra
A draft bill on reintegrating Donbas, created by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC)l, recognizes that the territories under the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk “People’s Republics,” until now officially called “certain areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast (ORDLO),” or the “Anti-Terrorist Operation zone” as being under Russian occupation, and outlines the measures Ukraine will take to regain control over them.

The bill was published by the Ukrainian media outlet The first news of the preparation of such a bill appeared on 13 June, when 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 the “anti-terrorist operation” status that Ukraine has been in since the start of Russian-backed aggression against the country in 2014.

The NSDC was supposed to consider the document for approval at a meeting on 19 July 2017, but this has been postponed for consultations with strategic partners, according to Turchynov. Hromadske’s sources suspect that the document will be considered only in autumn after the Verkhovna Rada returns from vacation. The outlet has published a copy of the draft law “On the peculiarities of state policy on the restoration of the state sovereignty of Ukraine over the temporarily occupied territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” along with a summary.

"DNR" and "LNR" on a map. Image: Euromaidan Press

“DNR” and “LNR” on a map. Image: Euromaidan Press

Russian aggression and occupation clearly named

For the first time since the start of a Russian-backed insurgency in 2014, the bill states that Russia is carrying out armed aggression in Ukraine and calls the territory controlled by the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics “temporarily occupied territory” of Ukraine. As well, it states that Russia controls illegal armed formations and administrations of the territories it occupies.

“The Russian Federation is carrying out armed aggression against Ukraine and the temporarily occupied parts of its territory with the help of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” the bill reads.

Definition of temporarily occupied territory

Article 1 of the draft law gives a clear definition of temporarily occupied areas, as well as provides a list of military formations that control that territory.

“[This is] an area of ground within the boundaries of which units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, illegal armed formations established under the auspices of, subordinate to, managed, controlled and funded by the Russian Federation and the occupying administration of the Russian Federation have set up authority and exercise their power,” the article says.

According to the law, the boundaries of the temporarily occupied are to be defined by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine as proposed by the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and a special legal regime shall be introduced in the occupied areas.

Documents issued in occupied territories are invalid

In Article 2, the draft mentions that all the administrations and self-proclaimed authorities of the occupied territories are invalid, as are the decisions and documents they issued.

“If these organs or entities are not envisioned by the Constitution of Ukraine and Ukrainian law, if they are elected, appointed, or created in a manner unforeseen by the Constitution and Ukrainian law,” it says.

The bill retains property rights of ordinary citizens from the occupied territories, regardless whether they have the status of an IDP or not, and the ownership of assets of the Ukrainian state:

“The state of Ukraine, territorial communities of villages, towns and cities located in temporarily occupied areas shall retain their right of ownership of property, including real estate, namely land.”

Liberating occupied territory

Article 3 foresees that state sovereignty over the temporarily occupied territories will be restored based on norms of international law and the national legislature.

Article 4 names the goals of Ukraine’s state policy of liberating the occupied territories:

  1. freeing the territories and restoring constitutional order;
  2. defending the rights and freedoms of people who have suffered as a result of Russian aggression;
  3. strengthening the independence, sovereignty, provision of unity and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state.

Article 5 deals with “ensuring state sovereignty” in the occupied territories. For it proposes that the state authorities of Ukraine:

  • use existing opportunities to protect rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens living in the occupied territories;
  • perform political, diplomatic, and other actions to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity inside the internationally recognized border, in accordance with norms of international law and generally accepted principles;
  • take the necessary measures to ensure national security and defense, contain Russian aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts;
  • preventively develop the defense and security potential of Ukraine, relying on its own capabilities, and maximizing the potential of international collaboration.

Maintaining cultural connections with Ukrainian citizens living under occupation

Article 6 highlights the restoration of humanitarian and cultural ties with people living in the occupied areas.

It says that “the foundation of the protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms… is the promotion of their social and economic needs, the rebuilding of humanitarian and cultural ties, [the provision of] access to the Ukrainian media, and national means of legal defense.”

Additionally, it states that the Cabinet of Ministers will constantly monitor the state of human rights in the occupied territories and will document violations of human rights and provide the information to international human rights organizations, and that the Ombudsman will “ensure parliamentary control” over the state of human rights in the occupied territories.

Responsibility and self-defense

Article 6 of the draft law states: “Ukraine is not responsible for the illegal actions of Russia as an aggressor state and its illegal armed formations controlled by it in certain districts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

Article 7 states that Ukraine has an undeniable right to defend itself that can be exercised. It says that in order to create the necessary measures for political regulation of the conflict, compliance with the Minsk protocol from 5 September 2014, the Minsk memorandum from 19 September 2014, and the “Complex of measures” from 12 February 2015 shall be prioritized in the political and diplomatic measures taken Ukraine’s authorities to restore the country’s territorial integrity.

Regarding “containing” Russian aggression in Donbas, the document envisions “measures to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity […] by realizing Ukraine’s intrinsic right to self-defense and provide for the complex development of the security, economic, informational, and social-humanitarian infrastructure adjacent to the certain regions [of ORDLO, … realize] measures to strengthen the defense and security potential of Ukraine.”

For this purpose, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, the intelligence service, the National Guard and other forces shall be engaged. This is stipulated in Article 8.

Division of powers

Article 9 determines the powers within which the president is authorized to take decisions during the operation of this law.

“The President decides on the use of the Armed Forces, other military units, to deter and repel the armed aggression of the Russian Federation.”

It is the president who also declares martial law.

Article 10 highlights the division of powers and envisions that the Joint Operation Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will manage all the “forces and means” which are implementing measures to restore national security and defense in ODRLO. The Chief of this Joint Operation HQ will be appointed by the President as proposed by the Chief of the General Staff. All those who are involved in ensuring national security in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts will be subordinate to the Chief of the Joint Operation Headquarters.

The last article, Article 11, states that the rules of crossing the contact line and transportation of goods shall be also determined by the Chief of the Joint Operation Headquarters.

Based on reporting by UNIAN and Hromadske


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