Status of Donbas: Ukraine on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections

Author : Iaroslav Konoshzhiuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

The U.S. would like to resolve the Donbas crisis before the November presidential elections, while Europe urges to hurry up with the decision
17:05, 21 January 2016

“All the political factions must find enough strength to vote in favor of decentralization," with these words the parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Groisman urged MPs to support the amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization, and Donbas with a special procedure for local government.  However, according to our sources in the Parliament, despite the efforts of Presidential Administration, no more than 280 deputies are ready to support the changes to the Constitution. As far as we know, the votes of 300 MPs are needed to adopt the amendments.

Forcing “the special status”

Last summer the parliament during the unscheduled plenary session adopted in the first reading the presidential bill on amendments to the Constitution. It happened after Geoffrey R. Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, tried to convince the MPs, he insisted on the rapid adoption of these changes. President Poroshenko also was a strong supporter of this idea. Among other things, there was the norm on the special order of special procedure for local government in Donbas. It was expected that the final amendments would be adopted before the end of 2015.

However, as we know, the situation in eastern Ukraine has deteriorated significantly. Shortly before the "Norman Quartet"negotiations, which took place in October, the number of armed clashes in all areas of the contact line has dramatically increased.

Related: Ukraine in 2016: Russian frost, European chill, and new elections

"The United States agreed to postpone the introduction of amendments to the Constitution regarding the special order of the local government. Washington believes that first need is to ensure the present ceasefire and to have control of the border," says our exclusive source in the Verkhovna Rada.

Since the beginning of 2016 the so-called special status of Donbas again came to the fore in the negotiations.

Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly and publicly exchanged accusations of disrupting the Minsk-2 peace. State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin has accused Kyiv of disrupting the Minsk agreements and even suggested the EU to impose sanctions against Ukraine, which was taken as a joke by many analysts. Meanwhile, despite the official truce, the hostilities in Donbas were still taking place.

As a result, the fulfillment of the Minsk-2 was postponed for 2016. Thus shortly before the New Year, President's Administration started to influence on the MPs, highlighting the need of changes in the Basic Law regarding the special procedure for local government in Donbas.

Related: War and peace in Donbas: the main expectations of 2016 year

However, despite the nearly two-month process from this “educational program”, performed by Poroshenko and his administration, as well as emissaries from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who also insist that the constitutional changes should be made, has no success. There are still less than 300 votes for changing Constitution.

It should be noted that, unlike France and Germany, the United States try to openly coordinate the adoption of controversial amendments to the Constitution concerning withdrawal of the foreign militias from the territory of Donbas. At the same time, according to unnamed sources in the Cabinet, the United States would like to resolve the Donbas crisis before its presidential elections, which are scheduled for November 2016.

"Bankova Street, which houses the Presidential Administration, used all the possible tools to involve the necessary number of deputies. Different means were used: blackmail and threat of criminal cases. Despite this, the Administration of President managed to enlist the support of only about 280 people's deputies," says the unnamed source in the Verkhovna Rada.

Related: The U.S. increase military presence in Europe, - Breedlove

Postponed status

According to our source, it was initially planned that voting for amendments to the Constitution regarding the decentralization, as well as a special order of the local government will be held before the end of the current parliamentary session. And now, when there is no 100% guarantee of a positive result, some alternatives are implemented.

In particular, a group of MPs asked the Constitutional Court to clarify the timing of the changes in the Basic Law. Moreover, a draft law on the new procedure for the adoption of changes to the Constitution was registered in the Verkhovna Rada. Among other things, the option of voting for amendments to the Constitution regarding the decentralization (without the special status of Donbas) is also discussed. At the same time, in this case the bill would be resubmitted for review to the Constitutional Court. All these actions have one obvious goal: to delay the process of decision-making, without breaking the basic agreements with foreign partners and staying in the Minsk-2 regime.

"Bankova Street is forced to waste time. On the one hand, the EU insists on the early adoption of amendments to the Constitution (on the status of Donbas). At the same time, the rule of the so-called special status is ambiguously perceived by society, and rating the head of state has is not more than 50%," notes our source.

According to him, if the required number of votes for the bill is not collected, there is a probability of dissolving the parliament and holding early elections, which would be scheduled on this fall.

"The task - to hold out until the US presidential election. After them, the situation with the implementation of the agreements Minsk in any case change," - added the sources.

It could be concluded that the D-Day of the special status of Donbas is close. Our sources from the “Block of Poroshenko" evaluate the likelihood of effective voting for the bill in this session of Parliament with a probability of 30%.

Related: Saakashvili’s passing move: creation of a party, claims for a chair and early elections

Related: Pyatt: Poroshenko promised to accelerate reforms after the elections

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