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Ukraine marks one year since start of conflict in Donbas

April 06, 2015, 9:17 UTC+3 KIEV
Over 6,000 people have been confirmed dead in the conflict, and at least 14,000 have been wounded
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© Mikhail Sokolov/TASS

KIEV, April 6. /TASS/. Monday marks one year since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which led to proclamation of two unrecognized republics, the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, thousands of deaths and millions of people being dispaced.

From rallies to referendum on sovereignty

Starting February 2014, when then-president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in Kiev after the three-months long Maidan riots, the Ukrainian parliament canceled the law on the regional status of the Russian language and the voice of the far-right and ultra-nationalists groups became louder, the citizens of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk Regions took to the streets staging mass rallies.

The participants of the thousands-strong rallies across Ukraine’s south-east demanded that Ukraine resolve the issue on the status of the Russian language and the constitutional reform with the decentralization of the regions up to federalization.

However, Kiev did not listen to them. Moreover, the Ukrainian special services launched legal proceedings against the pro-federalization activists and some of the movement’s leaders were arrested.

As a result, on April 6, 2014, activists stormed the offices of the Donetsk regional administration and the Luhansk office of the State Security Service of Ukraine. The next day, the deputies of the Donetsk regional council proclaimed the Donetsk people’s republic and set the date for a referendum on its independence. In late April, the Luhansk people’s republic was also proclaimed.

On May 11, 2014, the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics held referendums on the self-determination. The vote was attended by 75% of citizens in the Donetsk region and 81% of citizens in the Luhansk region, of whom almost 90% called for the republics’ sovereignty.

Armed conflict in Donbas

On April 15, 2014, Kiev announced a special operation against the federalization supporters in Ukraine’s east and launched artillery shellings of Donbas cities.

In the self-proclaimed republics, armed militia units were formed to protect the region. Since then, according to the United Nations, more than 6,000 people were killed and over 14,000 were wounded.

The attempts to stop the bloodshed were taken many times, but it took the sides almost one year to agree on a real ceasefire. This demanded the interference of the leaders of the European states.

On February 12, 2015, after the marathon talks in Minsk, Belarus, between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a set of measures on the implementation of the Minsk agreements was adopted.

The document, signed by the Contact Group on Ukraine, envisages the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the contact line, the all-for-all prisoner exchange and also other measures for the long-term settlement of the crisis in Donbass.

Constitutional reform

Under the Minsk agreements, a constitutional reform is due to be carried out in Ukraine until the year-end and its key part is the decentralization of powers taking into consideration the particularities of the certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Kiev announced the need for the constitutional reform and the decentralization of powers a year ago. On April 1, 2014, the Ukrainian government approved a concept of reforms of local self-governance and territorial power in the country.

A year after, Ukraine’s authorities still continue speaking about the need of the constitutional reform and decentralization.

Now, Russia’s Foreign Ministry is again calling on Kiev to make every effort to restore the political process taking into account the Minsk agreements. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the official Kiev in violation of the Minsk agreements has announced that it does not consider the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics as the partners at talks.

Moscow insists on the need to step up the work of the Contact Group.

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