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Putin, Merkel discuss Donbass special status

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel expressed determination to continue work within the Normandy Quartet

MOSCOW, September 19. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call expressed determination to continue work within the Normandy Quartet and discussed the need for Kiev to secure the special status of Donbass, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

"A mutual determination to continue contributing to resolving the domestic Ukrainian crisis, particularly within the Normandy Quartet, was confirmed," the statement reads. "Vladimir Putin expressed concern about the situation resulting from the murder of DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko," the Kremlin press service added.

"The need to fully implement the 2015 Package of Measures was reiterated, including the legal implementation of the region’s special status," the statement says.

Special status law

Ukraine adopted a law providing special status to certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in October 2014 for a three-year term. The document is crucial for finding a political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The self-proclaimed Donbass republics have said many times that Kiev’s refusal to extend the law will mean a refusal to implement the Minsk Agreements.

On October 6, 2017, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) passed a law on creating conditions for peacefully resolving the situation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which extended the special status of Donbass for another year. However, Kiev amended the law to ensure that it will only come into force after Ukrainian authorities gain full control of the areas in question and "all the illegal armed units and military equipment" are withdrawn.

The move undermined the Contact Group’s negotiations on holding regional elections in Donbass and introducing self-government as part of a constitutional reform in Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk Accords and the Normandy Quartet’s agreement on the so-called "Steinmeier formula" (put forward by then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier). Moreover, the amended law said that the extension of the special status was particularly aimed at "creating conditions for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission."

The special status law will expire on October 6, 2018. In early September, Verkhovna Rada First Deputy Speaker Irina Gerashchenko said that plans to hold elections in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR, LPR) on November 11 would make it more difficult to extend the law.