All news

Zelensky submits draft constitutional amendments on decentralization to Verkhovna Rada

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said it would not recognize the move
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky Pyotr Sivkov/TASS
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
© Pyotr Sivkov/TASS

KIEV, December 13. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has submitted to the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) draft amendments to the country’s constitution on the decentralization of power.

The document was registered by the Verkhovna Rada on Friday. The text of the bill is not available on the parliament’s website.

A reform of local self-government began in Ukraine in 2014 under the then President Pyotr Poroshenko but was not completed. The reform envisages amending the constitution to shift the competences of regional and district state administrations to executive committees of elected regional and district council. Apart from that, the reform establishes the institute of prefects who will be appointed by the head of state and will be in charge of supervision of the legal compliance in territorial communities.

In early September, Zelensky issued an order to complete the decentralization reform and conduct local elections under the new rules in 2020. The pro-presidential Servant of the People party said later that the reform would be finished by the spring of 2020.

DPR response

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) does not recognize the unilateral ‘decentralization’ that Kiev plans to bring to life, DPR head Denis Pushilin said on Friday commenting on the amendments to Ukraine’s constitution submitted to Verkhovna Rada (parliament).

"After amendments to the constitution were submitted to Verkhovna Rada, we want to remind that Donbass special status should be enshrined in the constitution and Kiev is obliged to negotiate all the amendments related to special status with the DPR and LPR (the Lugansk People’s Republic - TASS)," the Donetsk news agency said citing Pushilin.

"It was written in the Minsk accords and confirmed at the Paris summit of Normandy Four. These amendments should be discussed at the Contact Group’s forthcoming meeting on December 18," Pushilin said.

"In case Kiev evades agreeing them with us, it will be rude and overt breach of the Minsk accords. We do not recognize unilateral ‘decentralization’," the DPR head said.

Pushilin added that Zelensky’s statements contradict one another and run counter to the Minsk peace deal.

"Zelensky’s another public remarks absolutely contradict the agreements achieved by the leaders of four states in Paris and run counter to the Minsk agreements," says the statement posted on Pushilin’s Telegram channel.

"Those hysterical wishes of Ukrainian politicians’ to amend the documents simply prove that Zelensky does not have control of the situation in the country and is afraid of his ‘opponents’ who stay poised to wage another Maidan at any moment. This fear pushes the Ukrainian president into uttering obviously absurd, contradictory theses in the same speech, like ‘we are implementing the Minsk accords, but they are not doable," he said.

Pushilin underscored that Ukraine would not gain control over its border with Russia in Donbass and urged Kiev to stay compliant with commitments to resolve the conflict.

"We have said many times - but if the Ukrainian president is so slow, we will repeat once again - that Kiev will not get control over the border between the republics and Russia. As long as Ukraine does not drop attempts to evade its commitments, there will be no constructive solution to the conflict," Pushilin said.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Natalia Nikonorova, said Zelensky’s attempt to misinterpret the Minsk agreements and substitute Donbass’ special status for a decentralization program is inadmissible as it ignore the region’s specifics, .

"The Ukrainian leader keeps on trying to demonstrate his commitment to the Minsk agreements in an openly dubious way - he arbitrarily changes the essence of the Minsk Package’s provisions in a hope that no one will see it. A vivid example of that is his statement about the constitutional reform, which is envisaged by the Minsk agreements and which, in his view is to be replaced by a national-level decentralization," the Donetsk News Agency quoted her as saying. "Zelensky admits however that there is no mention of it in the Minsk Package but says he ‘thinks this wording is quite acceptable in principle.’ But this wording is absolutely irrelevant since ‘decentralization,’ as envisaged by provision 11 of the Package of Measures, is to be carried out with due account of Donbass’ specifics agreed with Donbass’ representatives."

She called on the Ukrainian leaders to keep in mind that "any self-initiated activities and playing with the notions are inadmissible" in what concerns the implementation of the Minsk accords. "If the Ukrainian side continues to sabotage the Minsk agreements and call for their revision, it will mean Kiev’s default on its international commitments, with all corresponding measures of responsibility before the international community represented by the guarantor nations, the OSCE and the United Nations," Nikonorova warned.

The peace settlement plan for Donbass rests on the so-called Minsk agreements that along with the ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and weapons, amnesty, and the resumption of economic ties, stipulate a profound constitutional reform in Ukraine to decentralize power in the country with due account of a special status of certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said he wanted the Minsk agreements to be amended. He said it would be a very difficult but necessary procedure.

A Normandy Four summit was held in Paris on December 9, for the first time after a three-year break. Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Emmanuel Macron of Germany, Vladimir Zelensky of Ukraine and German Chancellor Angela Merkel gathered in the Elysee Palace to discuss ways of settling the conflict in Donbass.

The first talks of the Normandy Four group took place in France in June 2014 amid commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the landing of allied troops in Normandy. Then the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany met for the first time to find a solution to the conflict in the southeast Ukrainian region of Donbass. Since then, the Normandy Four has held a series of phone talks and summit meetings, along with meetings of foreign ministers and other officials. The previous Normandy Four summit took place in Berlin in October 2016.