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Kiev’s decentralization amendments to be applicable all over Ukraine — minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadim Pristayko said that the country’s constitution will be amended for decentralization on the entire territory of Ukraine.

"Ukraine remains committed to the [Minsk] agreements. We go ahead with constitutional amendments that envisage decentralization all over Ukraine," he said.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky submitted to the national parliament, Verkhovna Rada, draft amendments to the country’s constitution on decentralization of power. The full text of the bill is not yet available on the parliament’s website.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has already said it would not recognize the unilateral decentralization planned by Kiev.

"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)," DPR head Denis Pushilin said commenting on the amendments.

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

LPR response

Another self-proclaimed eastern Ukrainian republic LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) also warned that Kiev’s attempts to replace the special status envisaged by the Minsk agreements with decentralization plans were inadmissible.

"Despite the results of the Normandy Four summit, where [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky was clearly given to understand that any review of the Minsk accords would be inadmissible, he keeps contemplating about the decentralization of power in Ukraine instead of vesting the Donbass republics with a special status," the LuganskInformTsentr news agency quoted Deinego as saying.

Deinego said that the republics do not object decentralization of power in Ukraine, but this procedure would have no relation to the special status, sealed in reconciliation documents that were signed by Ukraine’s official envoy to the Contact Group.

"The Complex of Measures signed in Minsk on February 12, 2015, specifies that not abstract ‘decentralization of entire Ukraine’, as Zelensky is attempting to portray it, is needed, but a constitutional reform whose key element will be decentralization taking into account peculiarities of separate districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, coordinated with representatives of those regions," the LPR top diplomat said.

He said that a special status for the Donbass region should be one of those ‘peculiarities’ and warned Kiev against attempts to play with words.

According to Deinego, the only chance of peaceful co-existence between the parties to the conflict is the sides’ strict and consistent compliance with the obligations they had undertaken.

"Any attempts of dodging or revisionism may lead to the the total loss of foundation for settlement," he said.

Decentralization issue

In an attempt to end the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany launched peace negotiations in Minsk, which produced a package of peace settlement agreements. They provide for granting a special local self-government status to Donbass within Ukraine and general amnesty for the participants in the armed conflict.

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.

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