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Kiev dodges constitutional reform pledge, tries to find excuse West might buy

January 26, 2016, 18:36 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. Kiev dodges the constitutional reform the Minsk Accords provide for but at the same time it is keen to present an excuse the West would agree to buy. Tensions over the Ukrainian parliament’s adoption of amendments to the Constitution that would decentralize power in Ukraine — one of the fundamental clauses of the Minsk Accords on a settlement in Donbas — keep soaring. Even though the West put heavy pressures on Kiev of late in attempts to get this provision of Minsk-2 translated into reality.

In the meantime, it is getting ever clearer that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is not only unable to push the required amendments through parliament, but also not interested in implementing this reform as expected. In fact, everybody understands perfectly well that Kiev is unable to implement the Minsk-2 provisions. Experts predict at least a prolonged, sluggish process with an unclear result, if not a dead end.

The question of constitutional amendments on the decentralization of power in Ukraine failed to be included in the Ukrainian parliament’s agenda for this week (January 26-29). The Ukrainian authorities have drastically revised the tactic. Last week the emphasis was on persuading parliament members to vote for the amendments by the end of the current session. A constitutional majority of 300 votes would have to be collected for that. Many legislators said they had experienced unprecedented pressures from Western diplomats. Now the issue is being approached from a different angle. Both President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk came out for postponing the amendments. Poroshenko said he "would not permit disruption of decentralization", but at the same time he put forward a number of new conditions not mentioned in the Minsk Accords. And the head of state suggested putting the question of amendments to the Constitution to the vote in a national referendum. Moscow and also the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk republics said such an approach was sabotage of the Minsk process.

Analysts believe that such a drastic shift of priorities occurred because the authorities had failed to win a firm 300-vote support. Now both Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are trying to save face in the eyes of the West. For this they are putting forward various legal and political arguments why the amendments cannot be adopted. At the same time the Poroshenko administration and Ukrainian lawmakers have been devising various cunning schemes that would let them sidestep the constitutional reform. The Ukrainian authorities are distracting the world community’s attention from their default on the Minsk accords, Russia’s OSCE ambassador, Alexander Lukashevich, has said.

"Objectively, for Poroshenko it is not easy at all to push through parliament the constitutional amendments that have been stated in the Minsk Accords," the deputy director of the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, told TASS. "But the game currently underway is a complex one, and at times it does not look very logical. To an extent because in the United States there are different groups. There are Kerry and Obama, on the one hand, and there are Nuland and Biden, on the other.

Even if Obama and Kerry might really wish to have the Minsk Accords implemented, Nuland, and in particular, Biden, have no such wish at all. And the latter two have been doing their utmost to delay or distort the process.

In the foreseeable future, says Zharikhin, the process will be very slow-going. "There will follow slow implementation of the Minsk-2 conditions, accompanied by attempts to keep Donetsk and Luhansk barred from the political process in Ukraine. The Americans will do all that can to this end."

The type of decentralization Poroshenko has proposed is not recognized as a constitutional reform either by Russia, or by the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics, the president of the Center for Current Politics, Sergey Mikheyev, has told TASS. "But a large share of the ‘warmongers’ party’ in Kiev does not accept even these fictitious amendments and considers them as betrayal. Poroshenko’s popularity rating is at risk. He has no real wish to carry out a genuine constitutional reform, because in reality it would be tantamount to Ukraine’s full-scale federalization of Ukraine. In Minsk, Poroshenko put his signature to a paper that he is unable to act on and now they are trying to find a way out somehow. Using the people’s opinion as an excuse would be the easiest solution. That’s how the possibility of a referendum cropped up."

"This affair is bound to last. There is no ideal solution for either side. The odds are, it will be frozen," Mikheyev said.

If Minsk-2 is disrupted, the West will hold Russia responsible apriori, but at the same time it will be unable to utterly ignore the fact that Kiev backtracked on its commitments, Mikheyev said.

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