A bill was introduced in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to amend the law on special status of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Vedomosti reported on December 10. The text of the amendments was not published.
The current law on the special status of the disputed regions, which are controlled by separatist rebels, was introduced by former president Petro Poroshenko as part of the Minsk 2 agreements. The regions were granted a special status as part as the preparations for holding elections there, which never happened.
The law is due to expire at the end of this year. Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the law to be updated and extended during the Normandy Four summit earlier this week where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy face-to-face for the first time.
The two presidents discussed ways to bring an end to the conflict, but the question of the status of the breakaway regions and elections remains a sticking point, Putin said in remarks after the meetings were over. The two sides have agreed to meet again in four months to continue talks. However, the introduction of the bill amending the special status law was almost certainly provoked by the Normandy Four meeting in Paris.
Zelenskiy campaigned and won office as president with a landslide victory on the issue of ending the fighting in the eastern regions of Ukraine. He has suggested that he is prepared to make concessions to end the fighting, but has also promised to preserve Ukraine’s sovereign integrity.
The initiators of the special status amendments were the deputies of the presidential party “Servant of the People” David Arahamia and Alexander Kornienko, Vedomosti reported.
Zelenskiy announced that he would extend for a year the special status of the Donbas region following the Paris meeting. He also said there would be changes to the Ukrainian constitution to codify the status of the regions in the near future, which would be part of the Steinmeier Formula deal that is a set of bite-sized targets that is designed to make implementing the Minsk Protocols more palatable to both Moscow and Kyiv.
Another agreement that Putin and Zelenskiy reached in Paris is the Steinmeier Formula process will also be codified in Ukrainian law. Putin is focused on the Steinmeier Formula as the main mechanism for progressing in the talks, and is insisting that Zelenskiy sign off on a series of documents committing him to the process. The Russian side made it a pre-requisite for the Paris meeting that Zelenskiy sign a document publically committing himself to the Steinmeier Formula before the meeting and now is asking for this commitment be made law in Ukraine.
In the final communiqué from the Normandy Four meeting the four European leaders, that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, reaffirmed their commitment to the Minsk agreements and also agreed, among other things, on a complete ceasefire and exchange of prisoners by the end of the year.