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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Day 706: January 24, 2016

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian President Poroshenko: No Special Status For The East Without Ceasefire

The battles continue on Ukraine's front lines, as the Ukrainian military has continued to report ceasefire violations throughout the entire weekend. However, there is a political battle which is may indicate that more fighting is on the way.

Saturday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko urged the passage of constitutional amendments that would further decentralize embattled regions of eastern Ukraine -- a provision of the Minsk agreements which were supposed to be the first steps to a more permanent solution to the crisis in the Donbass region. Poroshenko maintained, however, that the decentralization amendments would require the Russian-backed separatists to comply with the Minsk agreements first, and one of the most important issues was the return of the control of the border to the Ukrainian military:

One key point from Poroshenko's address -- he will not let Russia dictate their own interpretation of these agreements, nor will he allow them to freeze this conflict without resolution:

As president and supreme commander-in-chief, I will fight for every clump of Ukrainian soil and do everything possible to restore territorial integrity, sovereignty first in the Donbass, then in the Crimea. And I will not let this conflict freeze."

Today Poroshenko reiterated to reporters that there would be no "special status" for the Donbass region without a ceasefire. Reuters reports:

Poroshenko said he would not allow lawmakers to cancel the vote for the decentralization reform. But in the same breath, he threw his support behind those parliamentarians who wanted a series of conditions to be met before voting could take place.

These include a "ceasefire and a long period of a full silence. This is what Russia has to ensure, and the world needs to see that it happens," he told reporters.

Another condition is giving international monitors unfettered access to the border between Ukraine and Russia to monitor the flow of troops and arms into eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko has a task to accomplish before the end of February -- get the parliament to pass this legislation so that he can tell international negotiators that Ukraine has upheld its end of the Minsk agreements. The question is whether he can get his politicians to pass something which some have argued is too conciliatory toward the Russian-backed fighters who continue to break the ceasefire. Poroshenko now sounds confident that these new amendments will pass that test.

If the agreements pass, and the Russian-backed fighters do not uphold their end of the deal, then the question will become whether Poroshenko renews direct military action to restore order to the east by force.

And the other question, complicating all of this, is whether the Ukrainian people share Poroshenko's vision on any of these issues.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatesenyuk said today that he wanted to see Ukraine's constitution go up for a referendum. RFE/RL reports:

Speaking on January 24 in his weekly televised speech, Yatsenyuk said it is “high time for the Ukrainian people to have its say about a new Ukrainian constitution in a new European Ukraine.”

Yatsenyuk said the constitution would be a “new agreement on redistribution of powers between authorities, an agreement on relations between the center and the country’s regions, an agreement on a new honest and fair judicial system, and on clear geopolitics” – namely, on the country’s future goals of becoming members of the European Union and NATO.

A referendum could complicate matters in many ways, however. First, the Donbass has still not held elections according to Ukrainian law -- a key component of the Minsk agreement which they signed. If a constitutional referendum is held, would the embattled areas of the Donbass vote? If no, then this would be just another issue dividing the east and the west. Furthermore, would a referendum include the amendments discussed above?

One thing is clear -- there will be growing political pressure on elected officials to ensure that the status quo, unacceptable in the eyes of many, does not become the new, "frozen," normal.

-- James Miller

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