Rostislav Ishchenko: Why the Law on the “Reintegration” of Donbass Was Adopted

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The law of Ukraine “On the features of state policy on ensuring Ukraine’s state sovereignty over the occupied territories in Donetsk and Lugansk regions” — it is also called the Law On The Reintegration of Donbass — is presented by the Kiev authorities as an outstanding victory. The Ukrainian media in detail analyses the “victory”, explaining that for the first time in the history of independent Ukraine “the aggressor was called an aggressor”.

In reality, it’s not for the first time. The “victory” is that the so-called separate areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are declared as occupied territories, and that allegedly it is Russia that acts as an occupying country. But we’ve been hearing this for nearly a full four years.

The law in which everything is just “too good” gives a complete idea of the current condition of the Ukrainian State.

It’s not a secret for anyone that in March, 2014, Ukraine lost Crimea, which moved into the structure of Russia. But in this law there is nothing about Crimea – as the people on the peninsula like to joke, because Russia is indeed present there – while in Donbass it is the Minsk Agreements that are present. They don’t suit Kiev at all, because they oblige it to make changes to the Constitution, in accordance with which Ukraine must turn into a federal State, having actually provided the DPR and LPR with the right to autonomy.

Poroshenko’s regime initially didn’t hide that it won’t implement the Minsk Agreements. Moreover, not only and not so much because nazi militants – the power pillar of the regime – are against it. And even not because the agreements demand to provide citizens of Ukraine with the right to freely use the Russian language. Militants are not the cleverest people. In order to convince them of the benefits of federalisation, it would be enough to activate television propaganda in full swing.

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As for the Russian language, even the Ukrainian Constitution provides it with special status, on an equal basis with the State language. And after all, Ukraine, which had in its structure the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, could be called a unitary State rather conditionally.

I.e., all the requirements of the Minsk Agreements in one form or another are already contained in Ukrainian legislation, at least since the moment the country’s independence was declared. There was just a need to cement them in place, to somehow add new provisions to it, expanding the rights of regions and to create for them identical conditions in relation to Kiev.

Instead of this, the Law On The Reintegration of Donbass was announced and accepted as an alternative to the Minsk Agreements. Of course, its provisions for the “de-occupation” of Donbass are impracticable for Ukraine. And not because Russia gives financial, economic, political, diplomatic, and military aid to the republics. Even the readiness of Russia if necessary to support the republics with an armed hand is unlikely to force the authorities in Kiev to adopt a special law defining certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as occupied territories, and calling Russia (acting as the guarantor of the implementation of “Minsk”) the “aggressor country”, de facto canceling thus the Minsk Agreements.

In reality — from the point of view of international law — the importance of this law is insignificant. The Minsk Agreements – a document of international character – are not only are priority before the Ukrainian laws, but in principle can’t be regulated by Ukrainian legislation. Moreover, they are approved by the resolution of the UN Security Council, which makes them an element of international legislation that should be obligatory implemented.

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Many experts paid attention to the simplification by the new law of the procedure of introducing martial law. Actually, now the President has the right to do it individually, for an indefinite period of time, and on all the territory of the country. However, it should be noted that parliament even earlier not only didn’t prevent Poroshenko from imposing martial law, but, on the contrary, periodically demanded it.

There is a hitch: the introduction of martial law demands the definition of a specific enemy against who military operations are conducted. Here it’s impossible to limit yourself to shouting “Russia attacked”. There will be a need to attack Russia yourself. The consequences of such a step (both militarily and international-politically) are clear. The Kiev regime isn’t inspired by them. Not only because it is threatened by instant defeat on the battlefield. If the Ukrainian troops don’t cross the Russian border, it’s not a fact that Russia will come for this war.

First of all, Kiev is afraid of the reaction of western partners. Germany and France unambiguously don’t wish for a further aggravation of the situation. Their goal is a settlement of the conflict, the termination of sanctions against Russia, and a return to mutually beneficial economic cooperation with Moscow. The provocation by Kiev of a military collision with Moscow won’t be supported at the level of the EU. The Eastern European limitrophes are incapable of independently helping. They banally don’t have enough resources. It’s unlikely that the US in this situation will risk opposing the German-French consensus — the commitment of Paris and Berlin towards allied obligations within the framework of NATO is also not boundless.

Thus, to impose martial law under the formalisation of “wars against Russia”, to put it mildly, is inconvenient. But since the Ukrainian authorities don’t wish to recognise the civil nature of the conflict in Donbass, the new law, in essence, doesn’t change anything.

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It can be characterised as a declaration of the desires of the Ukrainian political elite. The internal political charge of the law is considerably more essential than the foreign policy one, and its different interpretations in the near future will serve as the pretext for the activation of a Ukrainian internal political discussion.

But on the other hand, as Ukrainian politicians state: “To a certain extent this law will remove barriers and the ban on trade”. It is trade with Russia that is meant. “I will explain the logic. Any sanctions concerning an enemy, aggressor, and occupier must directly hit the enemy and the occupier. But not us, not Ukraine,” stated Aleksandr Chernenko, the deputy of the Rada from the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko”.

In principle, this is everything that one needs to know about the new law. In essence, Ukraine is going to increase the volume of trade with the “aggressor”. Obviously, it will try to trade Russia to death.

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