Restoring Donbas: main events during the 16-22 March
11:43 / 23 Mar. 2015 / 1263
Local clashes and gunfights between the Ukrainian military and gunmen still proceed during this week in Donbas. However, ceasefire is persisted in general. The recognition of part of the Donbas as occupied territories, the establishment of a special status in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as the transition of pass-entry system in the ATO area into electronic format – are the most resonant news.
Special status and the occupied territories
On Tuesday, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution, which recognized part of Donbas as a temporarily occupied territory. This status will be valid until the withdrawal of all illegal armed formation materiel, weaponry, gunfighters, mercenaries and recovery of full control over the boundary line by Ukraine. In addition, the parliament approved a list of cities, which are offered to extend the special procedure of local government. In this case, Dzerzhinsk (city, which is controlled by Ukraine) was not included in such list. The City Council has requested the revision of the government’s decision to the Cabinet of Ministers, the President and the Verkhovna Rada.
According to experts, this decision means that the rules, which already exist in Crimea, cover this part of Donbas. Henceforth, the residents of towns and villages, which are outside the control of Ukraine, will be forced to execute documents and to vote only in controlled areas. Elections will not be held in the territory (which is recognized as occupied) and the decision of self-proclaimed authorities will not be admitted. Purchase and sale of real estate register outside the occupied territory. Judges, who want to continue their work, have to transfer to other regions.
However, implementation of the law is a big question. On the one hand, it will be a great moral deal for separatists to recognize at least some jurisdiction of the Ukrainian authorities. Though, Donetsk and Lugansk do not object to the elections. They believe that local elections will be really local. Namely, mayors and city councils will be elected in these areas, but they will be under the control of DNR/LNR.
The statement of Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, became an important point in this story.
At the end of the week, he stated that Kiev will recognize any results of local elections in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, if they are carried out in accordance with Ukrainian law. Thus, according to the president, present leaders of DNR and LNR can participate in elections.
From the other hand, Kiev has doubts about the necessity of reintegration “special area” in Ukraine. According to a source in the Cabinet of Ministers, A. Yatsenyuk feels specific discontent about the prospect of renewed funding of Donbas, which is fixed in Minsk agreements.
Electronic pass-entry system
This week, Security Service of Ukraine has presented a new pass-entry system in the ATO area. Nowadays, from March 20 a new system (sending documents by e-mail) is implemented in the test mode. According to the agency, a website, where residents by themselves will be able to fill a form in order to get into a special database and pass checkpoints without obstacles in the future, will be opened soon. It will be possible to submit documents by e-mail. In this case, scanned copies of papers should be directed to the email addresses of coordination groups.
Security Service of Ukraine stated that from March 21 electronic system has started to work in test mode, after March 25 it will work entirely. In order to obtain pass with the help of Internet, it is necessary to submit scanned copies of the same documents, which are given by mail or personally.
The situation in the uncontrolled territories
On the territory of “government” LDNR it is planned to introduce multi-currency system. Many citizens have savings in other currencies or depart to work for Russia and bring rubles back. Nowadays, currency exchange in Donbas is unprofitable and problematic. It was decided to input multi-currency system officially in order to remove intermediaries.
In addition, unrecognized republics stated that hryvnia has been almost vanished in context of the economic blockade of the republic’s territory. Head of LNR added that the main currency is still hryvnia, and the “republic” will get back to it when Kiev carry out economic demands of Minsk Agreement, namely, Ukrainian authorities should pay pensions and benefits that are not paid for over six months and resume the banking system. France is also ready to help. Laurent Fabius, Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that French side confirmed its readiness to provide technical assistance in renovation of banking services for the population in the eastern regions of Ukraine.
Temporary ceasefire is used by the authorities of the eastern territories for restoring the destroyed infrastructure in the region. Thus, the leadership of the unrecognized republics declared about the restoration of the route Debaltseve-Donetsk. Roman Kramenko, assigned “head” of the Yenakievo city administration, claimed that this route is the only road that connects Yenakievo and Uglegorsk, and, accordingly, Debaltseve with Gorlovka and Donetsk. He said that apart from this road, there is only one way in Donetsk – from Debaltseve across the LNR, but it is much more longer.
Economic life in the uncontrolled territories of Donbas starts to regenerate since the beginning of spring. Thus, by the end of the week the media reported that some producers go back to the East. This week, Gloria Jeans, Russian company, resume the work of factory in Lugansk. It has not worked for the past seven months. About five hundred people (less than a third of the total number of employees) came to work after the production’s restart.
Moreover, it is planned to resume trolleybus routes in Lugansk. According to the mayor’s office, trolleybuses in Lugansk will start to ply in April. In addition, employees of the municipal enterprise have been working on restoration of trolley lines in Lugansk. All props and trolleys, which were damaged this summer, have been repaired.
Displaced persons from the ATO area
The number of internally displaced persons from the Donbas gradually decreases. According to the press- service of the Zaporozhye Regional State Administration, the number of displaced, who have moved to Zaporizhzhya region, significantly decreased from the beginning of the signing of the Minsk agreements. During the last weeks, in average 50 people arrive to the region (earlier – about 100 people).
By the March 16, 60,250 people, who came from Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, are allocated in the region. Among them there are 8367 – man, 18 194 – women, 15247 – children, 18 442 – disabled and seniors.
However, according to the Ministry of Education, around five thousand children (residents of uncontrolled territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions) want to enter the Ukrainian universities.
Nowadays, Ministry of Defense and volunteer organizations attempt to solve the issue related to the crossing checkpoints by those, who will take the External independent testing.
In the meantime, European partners continue to provide assistance to displaced people from Donbas.
Thus, Smiltene Crisis Center of family support in the near future will take the first group of Ukrainian children from the ATO. “Children, who were affected or injured, urgently need for psychological rehabilitation under the supervision of specialists, – said Elena Vishnjakova, the Honorary Consul of Latvia in Ukraine. She added: “We are extremely pleased that the Administration Center responded quickly to our request and supported the initiative to take the first group of affected children as soon as possible”.
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