Donetsk and Luhansk republics can stay with Ukraine
The contact group established for the regulation of the crisis in Ukraine, which includes representatives of the Russian Federation, Kiev, the OSCE, as well as the south-east of Ukraine, gathered for a meeting in Minsk, Belarus, on September 1. Representatives of the People's Republic of Donetsk arrived for the meeting as well, RIA Novosti reports. The meeting started at 15:00 MSK.
During the talks, the leaders of the unrecognized republics of Donetsk and Luhansk intend to demand Kiev should recognize a special status of the territories and stop the military operation to hold free elections of deputies and heads of the republics, Interfax reports.
"The president, the Government and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall adopt, in accordance with the letter and spirit of Geneva agreements, legislative acts guaranteeing efforts to immediately overcome the humanitarian disaster, recognize a special status of the territories controlled by people's republics, create conditions - primarily to end the anti-terrorist operation - for free election of leaders and members of all levels of the people's republics on principles of independent control, excluding the right to withdraw mandate halfway," a representative of self-proclaimed republics said.
For the time being, it remains unclear what exactly the leaders of the breakaway republics mean by "special status." On August 31, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the Kiev authorities to start talks with representatives of the people's republics about the state status of the south-east of the country.
Shortly before Putin's announcement, Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko, refused to support the idea of federalization, which the republics were originally advocating. He stood up for complete independence. "We want to live independently. Federalization (of Ukraine) does not suit us," he said.
According to him, the self-proclaimed republic has sufficient economic potential for independent living. "We have all minerals, resort areas, we are a self-sufficient region," said Zakharchenko.
The previous tripartite consultations of the contact group Ukraine-OSCE-Russia with representatives of the People's Republic of Donetsk took place on July 31.
On August 26, Russian and Ukrainian presidents Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko agreed to resume the work of the group during their meeting in Minsk, at the summit of the Customs Union-EU-Ukraine.
Representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk republics are ready to preserve single economic, cultural and political space of Ukraine in the event the Ukrainian authorities recognize their conditions.
"We declare our initial positions, from which we can begin a dialogue, - said Deputy Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Donetsk, Andrei Purgin. - How will it continue? This is a negotiation process. I think that it will not finish today, for sure."
The requirements of representatives of the two republics include the provision of a special status for the Russian language on the territories of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, unconditional amnesty for political prisoners and militia members, legalization of armed groups, as well as the right to appoint prosecutors and judges.
According to representatives of the two republics, only "equal negotiations can serve as the only acceptable way to resolve the conflict and restore peace."
At the same time, representatives of the south-east of Ukraine proceed from the principles developed at the Geneva meeting of the representatives of Russia, the USA, the EU and Ukraine on April 17, 2014.
According to representatives of the two republics, the President and the Government of Ukraine shall appoint an official representative for the negotiations.
During the second stage, negotiations are likely to be conducted directly between official representatives of Ukraine and official representatives of the government of the two republics.
In the first place, representatives of the south-east of Ukraine demand the Ukrainian president, the Government and the Verkhovna Rada should at first take measures to "immediately overcome the humanitarian disaster and recognize a special status of Ukrainian territories controlled by the people's republics."
In addition, representatives of the republics demanded the Ukrainian authorities should restore destroyed housing, utilities, transport and industrial infrastructure.
Donetsk and Luhansk also favor the creation of conditions for the return of refugees, for the formation of a joint commission to work out the agreement on the peaceful settlement of the conflict and the restoration of the Donbass region.