The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Thursday adopted a law on the reintegration of Donbass, regulating relations with rebellious regions and called to launch a mechanism for their return to Ukraine. Despite the initial intention of President Petro Poroshenko to turn the document into an instrument for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the law in its final form recorded Kiev's rejection of the agreements reached with the mediation of Russia, France and Germany. Moscow in the document is called an "aggressor", and territories beyond the control of Kiev are "occupied". A retreat from Minsk may lead to a change in Kyiv's foreign policy priorities: turning away from Paris and Berlin, the guarantors of the Minsk process, Ukraine is making a strategic bet on Washington.
The dual law
The sources interviewed by Kommersant in Kiev agree that the document adopted by a confident majority (280 at the required minimum of 226) is of a dual character and is intended to simultaneously satisfy both hardliners in the Rada and Western partners of Ukraine who demanded to avoid the most radical formulations.
Almost all such formulations, proposed in the form of amendments by representatives of the Popular Front, Self-help, Batkivshchyna and other parliamentary factions that are guided by the "patriotic" electorate by the ruling coalition, were rejected by the majority of deputies. Thus, proposals were not supported to introduce martial law in the country, to sever diplomatic ties with Russia, to recognize the self-declared DNR and LNR as "terrorist entities," to link the status of Donbass and the Crimea, to legislatively prohibit trade and economic relations with Moscow, to denounce the treaty of friendship and cooperation with Russia from 1997.
In addition, the document provides for some provisions that can be regarded as an easing in relation to residents of areas not controlled by Kiev. Thus, the authorities of Ukraine undertake to recognize the birth and death certificates issued by the current authorities of Donetsk and Lugansk.
At the same time, representatives of the "patriotic camp" can feel satisfied (at least partially). In the preamble to the document, Russia is recognized as an "aggressor country". It also speaks of the "annexation" of Crimea and Sevastopol. In addition, Kiev refuses to engage in direct dialogue with representatives of "separate districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions" (ORDLO), although this is stipulated by the Minsk agreements, insisting on resolving disputable issues exclusively with the "aggressor country". It is Russia that is now responsible for everything that happens in "uncontrolled territories". Another point that contradicts the Minsk Agreements (namely, the requirement to pass an amnesty law there) is the introduction of criminal liability for "participation in the activities of the occupation administration" and "damage to Ukraine".
It is not surprising that with this dual nature of the document, representatives of two opposite camps in the parliament voted against him: deputies from the "Opposition bloc" and ultra-radicals from the nationalist "Freedom" party. It is significant that the rest of the nominal oppositionists (in particular, the members of "Self-help", Radical Party and "Fatherland"), who vehemently criticized the document during preliminary debates and when discussing amendments, eventually voted for it. According to the interlocutors of "Kommersant" in the Rada, the reason was the unprecedentedly severe pressure of "foreign partners" (primarily Americans) who insisted on the immediate adoption of the law.
"Recognition of Russia as an aggressor country was the right decision," political scientist Viktor Ukolov, who was close to the presidential administration, assured Kommersant. "This allowed us to collect the necessary votes in the parliament, and even 22 deputies from the opposition" Self-help "eventually supported the document, of the amendments proposed by them was not adopted. In the process of agreeing the text, it became tougher in comparison with the initial presidential project. But at the same time, he did not become as radical as the People's Front demanded. "
Another interlocutor of Kommersant, a member of Parliament from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, who asked to remain anonymous, considers the results of the vote as "a great victory for the president and his team". "To a large extent, we compromised with the Popular Front, but the main thing was done: uncontrolled territories of Donbass received an official invitation to return home," the deputy says. "Moreover, the document records the moment that the spontaneous antiterrorist operation is now becoming holistic defense strategy under the leadership of the president - the supreme commander-in-chief. "
In addition, the law extends the rights of security forces in areas adjacent to the line of demarcation. They have the opportunity to "use weapons and special means in relation to violators of the law, temporarily restrict or prohibit the movement of transport and pedestrians, enter residential houses, private plots of land, enterprises and institutions, if necessary to counter external aggression, with the official purpose of using permission of owners of means of communication and cars ".
By adopting the law on the reintegration of the Donbas in its current formulations, the Rada "actually chose the path opposite to the peaceful political resolution of the conflict," said Russia's representative in the contact group for the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, Boris Gryzlov.
"Instead of lifting the blockade and normalizing the humanitarian situation, we are betting on martial law. Instead of political decisions on the introduction of a special status of Donbass, amnesty and free elections - military suppression. For the Donbass this is a signal about the incompetence of Kiev and the compelled necessity to prepare for defense, "Mr. Gryzlov is convinced.
Is there a world after Minsk?
However, the sources of Kommersant in the Rada and representatives of the expert community in Kiev urge not to consider the adopted law as a complete break with the Minsk agreements reached in February 2015 with the mediation of Russia, Germany and France.
"After voting in the Verkhovna Rada, it is more appropriate to talk about the epoch of post-Minsk that has come. Without refusing the basic ideas of Minsk, the Ukrainian side is trying to change the format of the peace process, its accents and priorities, proceeding from the fact that this is the only way to get the Minsk process out of the current impasse, "explained the director of the Kiev Institute of Global Strategies Vadim Karasev .
According to the expert, the definition of Russia as an "aggressor" in the new law is aimed at fixing Ukraine's new approach to the negotiation process. The main message of Kiev is that three years after the conclusion of the Minsk agreements, recognize the confrontation in the Donbas as a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which will now have to negotiate with each other, while earlier Kiev negotiated with the People's Democratic Republic and the People's Republic of Germany, and Moscow does not conflict with the conflict was considered. "In the new situation, after the adoption of the law, three scenarios are possible: the freezing of the conflict, its unfreezing or a Russian-Ukrainian settlement on a bilateral basis," Mr. Karasev explains.
According to the expert, one of the motivations that prompted Kiev to move away from Minsk was "the desire to withdraw from the EU custody and take a step toward the US". "From the standpoint of today, the Ukrainian side considers the mediation of the Germans and the French insolvent, considering that Berlin and Paris failed to achieve the implementation of Minsk. Therefore, today Kiev is making a strategic bet on Washington, expecting that only American pressure on Moscow will prove to be quite tough and effective, "says Mr. Karasev.
The interlocutor of Kommersant draws attention to the fact that when calling Russia an "aggressor", Kiev at the same time expects to implement the strategy of a peaceful return of Donbass, demonstrating the attractiveness of Ukraine for residents of Donetsk and Lugansk. The adopted draft law simplifies the procedure for obtaining Ukrainian pensions by residents of unrecognized DPR and LNR, confirms Kiev's recognition of personal documents of citizens received in the territory of rebel republics, and facilitates the movement of goods across the line of delineation.