KIEV, October 5. /TASS/. Ways of conducting local elections in east Ukraine's Donbas region will feature high on the agenda of a meeting between representatives of the Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Tuesday, October 6, a senior Ukrainian administration official said.
Konstantin Yeliseyev, deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, told a news briefing in Kiev on Monday: "It has been agreed that snap elections will be held in accordance with Ukrainian legislation, under OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR [the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/ the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights]."
"Modalities of elections will be discussed by the Trilateral Contact Group, and this session will take place already tomorrow," Yeliseyev said. "We hope that this process will be launched there," he added.
Last Tuesday, the Contact Group’s working subgroups for security and political issues completed their two-day negotiations in Minsk. On the same day, Belarus hosted talks of the Trilateral Contact Group comprising senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE. The sides signed an agreement to extend a pull-back of weapons in Donbass to include tanks and smaller weapons systems under 100mm calibre. The security subgroup had been working on the document for several months, but its initialling was delayed because of lack of agreement with Kiev.
Discussions were also expected to focus on local elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. They are seen as a key element of the February 12 comprehensive action plan to fulfil the Minsk accords worked out by leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in the search for peace in the embattled region.
The deal, announced after more than 16 hours of discussions between Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel in the Belarusian capital, envisaged immediate and full bilateral ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and people’s militia starting from February 15.
This was to be followed by withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of military engagement by at least 15 kilometers (9 miles), prisoner release and agreement for international observers to monitor the truce.
Among the terms of the deal were also a commitment to grant wider self-rule to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and calls for talks on their long-term status.
Although the February 12 Package of Measures contains a demand for an immediate dialogue between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics after the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and for holding elections before the end of 2015, Kiev refuses to do both.
A law on local elections passed by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, this summer does not envision elections in the regions at all. In these conditions, the Donetsk and Luhansk republics took decisions to hold them on October 18 and November 1 respectively, thus triggering a frantic reaction in Kiev.
On September 22, representatives from Donetsk and Luhansk handed over to other members of the Contact Group a roadmap for the implementation of political provisions of the Minsk deal. The republics suggested that the final stage of local elections should be held on February 21.
In the meantime, "dates for holding the first stage of elections — heads of cities and districts — will remain in place: in Donetsk on October 18 and in Lugansk on November 1," Denis Pushilin, the Donetsk republic’s envoy to the Contact Group, said last month.