Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has announced plans to implement the so-called Steinmeier formula granting special status to the war-torn parts of the country’s Donbas region.
Speaking at a press briefing on October 1, Mr Zelensky confirmed that Ukraine’s representatives at the Trilateral Contact Group of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE in Minsk had agreed on the final wording of the formula which is now “pending approval.”
He said that the new law on the special status and self-governance of the Donbas region would be passed by the end of the year, since the current agreement expires on December 31, 2019.
“There will be a new law, that will be drafted by the parliament in close cooperation with the public after a public discussion,” he continued, stressing that “no red lines will be crossed” when it comes to the territorial integrity of the country. However, he did not specify what type of autonomy the region will have.
Named after a 2015 proposal from former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the formula is a peace process plan which grants the Donbas region, which is controlled by pro-Russian rebels, with permanent special status if upcoming local elections in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) are conducted by the Ukrainian authorities under the Ukrainian constitution.
The formula also requires the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to declare that the elections are held according to international standards and without any pressure from Russia.
“This means that there can be no elections with the barrel of machine guns,” the Ukrainian president added.
He emphasised that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Donbas was also a key condition and is expected to be discussed by the next Normandy summit with the leaders of France, Germany and Russia.
“The last obstacles to the Normandy summit have been eliminated. I think we will know the date soon,” the Ukranian president added.
Mr Zelensky told reporters that the TCG also made an agreement about the separation of troops in the Petrivske and Zolote area.
The realisation of Mr Steinmeier’s peace plan has sparked fierce debate in Ukraine in recent weeks, with critics claiming that it breaches the country’s sovereignty and plays into the hands of Russia.
Reacting to Mr Zelensky’s announcement, the European Solidarity party of former president Petro Poroshenko stressed that security, and not political issues must be solved first.
Photo: Official website of the President of Ukraine