KIEV, February 16. /TASS/. Holding a referendum in Ukraine on the Minsk peace deal is possible only if all other tools are exhausted, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for the reintegration of uncontrolled territories Irina Vereshchuk said on Wednesday.
"President [of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky] has allowed such an opportunity if there are no other options and other tools," she said on the 1+1 TV channel. Vereshchuk noted that she was not aware of any serious discussions on such a referendum or plans to hold it.
Following the coup d’etat and ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014, grassroots opposition to the new, unelected authorities in Kiev erupted in Ukraine’s eastern regions, populated mostly by Russian speakers. In response, Kiev officials launched a military operation against Donbass in April 2014. Massive shelling of residential areas triggered a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe in the region.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 13,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 were wounded on both sides as of January 31, 2021.
The Minsk agreements are the cornerstone of the Donbass peace process. The deal outlines moves to declare a ceasefire, withdraw weapons, declare amnesty, restore economic ties and conduct constitutional reform in Ukraine through dialogue with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR, LPR), aimed at decentralizing power and providing a special status to certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. However, the negotiation process has actually stalled because of Kiev’s refusal to fulfill the political provisions of the Minsk accords.
In particular, Kiev rejects holding any direct dialogue with the DPR and the LPR, opposes the consolidation of the regions’ special status in the constitution, and also demands that a section of the border with Russia in Donbass be placed under Ukrainian control until the political part of the deal is implemented.