Bill on Donbas de-occupation: notes ahead of second reading

Mykhailo Pashkov
10:40, 16 October 2017
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Opinion

Much has been said about the presidential bill "On the features of state policy on ensuring Ukraine's state sovereignty over the occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions." However, the question remained beyond the discussion framework on how this bill had been drafted and then submitted to Parliament. Besides, much less focus was made on the decision to prolong the law on a special order of local self-governance in the occupied Donbas that had already entered into force. Also, the bill put forward by a group of deputies led by the Rada vice-speaker, with a name similar to the presidential version, "On the features of state policy..." remained behind the scenes.

Defining the exact date of the beginning of military expansion is necessary both in political, legal and historical terms (at the end of the day, this will be required for history textbooks). No approximations could be acceptable in this regard.

The legislators managed to discuss some of the changes to the presidential bill "On the features ..." during its first reading. However, ahead of the second reading, some questions to the text of the bill remained.

First. Quite reasonable are the requirements to indicate the exact dates of Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas (in an alternative bill, such dates are laid out). Defining the exact date of the beginning of military expansion is necessary both in political, legal and historical terms (at the end of the day, this will be required for history textbooks). No approximations could be acceptable in this regard.

Second. Article 6 of the bill instructs the Cabinet of Ministers to monitor the situation with human rights in the occupied territories, document facts of their violations, promulgate them and inform international observers and, based on this, form a consolidated claim to the Russian Federation. But what about the SBU, the prosecutor's office, and military intelligence? Security agencies have already collected a huge array of evidence. Another thing is that this evidence needs to be formalized according to international rules and standards. Why not attract foreign experts and law firms to these efforts? Incidentally, loads of various articles, reports, and opinion pieces have been written both on Crimea and Donbas. But what about the publication of documents, witness accounts, testimonies, and other evidence of Russian aggression? It is not enough to present at various international forums those military IDs of Russian soldiers found in the Ukrainian Donbas.

Loads of various articles, reports, and opinion pieces have been written both on Crimea and Donbas. But what about the publication of documents, witness accounts, testimonies, and other evidence of Russian aggression?

Third. Article 10 prescribes that the access regime along the entire contact line with the occupied territories (movement of people and goods) is determined by the head of the Joint Operational Headquarters in agreement with the SBU and the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories. But this is the same rake the Ukrainian side has already stepped on. Recall, how much public outcry has been sparked by smuggling, corruption, gray schemes, etc. in the zone of hostilities. And this new article, in fact, brings no changes.

Firstly, it is worth recalling that in January 2017, activists blocked transport communication with the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which resulted in the Cabinet of Ministers adopting a resolution on the order of the movement of goods across the contact line. On March 15, the President enacted by his decree the decision of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council on the so-called transport blockade.

Secondly, if we consider that now these territories are recognized as occupied, that are both de facto and de jure under the control of the aggressor state, then, in fact, the line of contact for a certain period becomes no longer a line of the Anti-Terrorist Operation but an actual border, dividing Ukraine and the occupied territories. So the regime of the state border should be applied at this line temporarily (until the liberation of these territories) instead of some kind of regulations by the Chief of Staff. Incidentally, the alternative draft law’s Article 14 provides for the introduction of the regime of the state and customs border along the line of contact with the occupied territories.

Mykhailo Pashkov is a Co-Director of Foreign Policy and International Security Programs at Razumkov Center

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