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The draft decentralization law was introduced in the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, on Thursday. A day earlier, Poroshenko said Ukrainian would remain the only national language in the Constitution. The proposal suggests devolution of state powers to executive committees in the regions but no federalization.
Head of the constitutional and municipal law department at the Higher School of Economics, Mikhail Krasnov, believes federalization is a principle not to be feared as “it just brings the government closer to the people and gives them a chance to control it”.
“In the abstract sense, federalism is appropriate in the countries that comprise culturally diverse regions. But amid the current political crisis the government in Kiev is afraid that transition from a unitary state to a federation could be a step towards the country’s break-up,” Krasnov, a former presidential advisor on legal issues, told ITAR-TASS.
Doctor of law Krasnov lamented the fact that Ukrainian was declared the only national language as this did not account for the cultural and ethnic diversity in several regions with a majority of Russian speakers.
Director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov, also noted the problem as “65% of the Ukrainians speak Russian and even the Ukrainian web is 70-75% Russian”.
“The people in Ukraine’s southeast will certainly never understand the president’s unwillingness to grant Russian the status of the second national language,” Markov, who is also a member of the Civic Chamber told ITAR-TASS.
Expert of the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, Alexei Zudin, believes that only federalism can help preserve Ukraine’s connection to both Russia and the West.
“Federalism is the optimal form of government for Ukraine, but only real federalism, not symbolic at that. Only federalism will be a credible guarantee for the integrity of Ukraine as a highly heterogeneous country. Only federalism can prevent differences between the east and the west from becoming an unbridgeable gap. Only federalism can guarantee Ukraine’s non-aligned status,” the expert told ITAR-TASS.
The US, Zudin believes, wants Ukraine to become “a state based on complete severance of historical ties between Ukraine and Russia and permanently hostile against Russia as a state”.
Director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadim Karasev, believes Poroshenko’s plans to present the draft law at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Strasbourg on Thursday to be “a gesture for Western partners”.
“But this project does not show deep understanding of how to reform the state’s design and its administrative and territorial structure. It is rather a response to the current situation aimed to close the issue of territorial conflicts, not to establish long-term mechanisms to resolve it,” the expert said.
Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries, Vladimir Zharikhin, said officials in Kiev evaded the word “federalization” and spoke of “expanding the regions’ authorities”. But even this, he believes, requires the government’s “good will and readiness for compromises”.
“A compromise is possible on the way to federalization but, frankly speaking, the main part of the southeastern population is not ready to accept even this condition. They demand sovereignty for their republics,” the expert said.
The interests of the southeast were largely similar to Russia’s, he added, that is Ukraine’s non-participation in NATO, continued economic ties with Russia and the national status for the Russian language. Russia supported these demands, Zharikhin said.
In response to the president’s draft constitution, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Boroday, declared the region would set up a confederation Novorossiya with the Luhansk People’s Republic with a common constitution.
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