MOSCOW, October 9. /TASS/. Local elections in east Ukraine’s self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic will take place on March 20 next year. A corresponding decree was signed by the republic’s leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, on Friday.
The first round of elections for the heads of cities and regions is set to be postponed from October 18, 2015 to March 20, 2016, said the text of the decree, quoted by the Donetsk news agency.
Denis Pushilin, the Donetsk republic’s envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group of senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and European security watchdog OSCE, said the move would help to "take another step towards dialogue with Ukraine".
"At the suggestion of the guarantors of the Minsk process - France, Germany and Russia - we have agreed to postpone local elections in the Donetsk People’s Republic from October 18 to 2016," Pushilin said. "The head of the republic has signed a corresponding decree today."
"We have repeatedly said that Donbas needs peace. That’s why we have decided to believe again the guarantors of the Minsk agreements, who pledged to make Kiev fulfil its part of the Minsk accords," he said.
"We know that the people of Ukraine don’t want to fight," Pushilin added. "And we are ready to resolve issues through direct talks with Kiev. But all decisions made at Minsk talks should be agreed with representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic without fail."
The eastern Donetsk and Luhansk republics said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they were pushing back local elections to next year in line with Western demands but in exchange they wanted Kiev to fully comply with the peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, in February.
"We announce the consent of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics to postpone elections from October 18 [in the Donetsk People's Republic] and November 1 [in the Luhansk People's Republic] to next year," the political negotiators of the two self-proclaimed republics said, noting that the decision had been made after the republics examined the results of last week’s negotiations between the Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders, who met in Paris to discuss the Ukraine peace process.
Local elections in east Ukraine's Donbass region are seen as a key element of the February 12 comprehensive action plan to fulfil the Minsk accords worked out by the 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 kilometres (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.