This is the most announced and expected bill of recent years. It is hard to say which other bill had such secrecy, leaks and passions. In the expert community and political elite, everyone was talking about it, everyone commented on it, although the very few saw it. And then it turned out that they saw not the final version of law, but only a working one. On October 4, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko personally introduced the bill "On the peculiarities of state policy to ensure the state sovereignty of Ukraine over temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts" to the parliament.
On June 13, the NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov suddenly stated that it was time to cancel Anti-terrorist operation in the Donbass and move to a new format.
"It is time not just to recognize some regions of the Donetsk and the Lugansk oblasts as occupied, but to clearly determine the principles of state policy, regarding their liberation, at the legislative level", - he stated.
Then the initiative was seized by President Petro Poroshenko, who became the main "engine" of this law. The head of state did not miss the opportunity to remember about the drafting law on "reintegration", "de-occupation" or "return of the Donbass" in almost every public introductory word. The final document title became known only this week.
It can be safely said that the law was prepared in secret from Ukrainian society: it was not discussed not only with non-governmental organizations and displaced persons, but even with people's deputies and the relevant ministry.
"The bill, which tomorrow is to be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, is being developed by the Presidential Administration, in particular by the National Security and Defence Council", - the Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons Heorhiy Tuka stated.
"No, they do not advise with us. I was involved as a consultant only in the development of the first option. Then a closed meeting was held in the Security Council, we were given the first copies of bill, classified "to eat, but not to give to the enemy", we examined them, made our comments, broke up and four days later, a similar document came out to some deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, but not as a bill, but as a roadmap. This is a substantial difference", - he added.
On Wednesday afternoon, information appeared that two bills on the Donbas would be introduced: on de-occupation and on extension of the Law "On special order of local self-government in certain regions of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts", which was adopted in 2014 for three years.
The law, published today, does not really have a rule on the extension of "special status" of the occupied districts. Probably, it will be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada for consideration by a separate bill in order for this controversial item not to block the entire law.
Some people's deputies from the pro-government coalition do not rule out that the bill, introduced by Poroshenko as urgent, can be put to a vote on Thursday. Such tight deadlines, given to the deputies for the study of document, already arouse indignation in many factions. Some deputies say that they are trying to be used behind the scenes.
What is the bill about?
The bill, proposed by the president, can be conditionally divided into several blocks.
The first one – makes changes in the terminology of the events in the Donbass.
1. For the first time, Russia is legally recognized as the aggressor. Before that, the Russian Federation was called the aggressor only in the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada and in the fiery speeches of Poroshenko.
"The Russian Federation initiated, organized and supported terrorist activities in Ukraine, carries out armed aggression against Ukraine and temporary occupation of parts of its territory, using regular units and units of the armed forces and other military formations of the Russian Federation", - the bill says.
2. Uncontrolled territories of the Donbass are recognized as temporarily occupied. The boundaries of temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts are determined upon the recommendation of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by the Ministry of Defence.
3. Anti-terrorist operation turns into "measures to ensure national security and defence, containment and deterrence against Russian armed aggression in the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts".
4. Activities of the Armed Forces and other military formations of the Russian Federation in the occupied Donbass, as well as Russian occupation administration, are called illegal, and any act, issued by them, is called invalid and does not create legal consequences.
5. The purpose of state policy of Ukraine to ensure the sovereignty of Ukraine in the temporarily occupied territories of Donbass is: liberation of these territories; protection of rights and freedoms of people, suffered as a result of this conflict; ensuring the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The second block is changes in the structure of military leadership of the operation in the Donbass and increase in the powers of the president.
In particular, Joint Operational Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is being created. It will directly manage the forces and assets of the Armed Forces and other military entities, the MIA and the National Police, involved in the process of "deterrence against military aggression" in the Donbass.
"Law enforcement officers, servicemen and others, who are involved in implementing measures to ensure national security and defence, containment and deterrence against Russian armed aggression in the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts, are subordinate to the head of Joint Operational Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the duration of these measures", - the bill says. Previously, ATO was headed by a representative of the Security Service, which complicated the chain of decision-making, since the military did not submit to the SBU, but to its leadership.
Joint Operational Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine together with the SBU will determine the procedure for crossing the line of demarcation and the movement of goods through it.
Also, in the opinion of Vice Speaker of the Parliament Oksana Syrojid, who commented on the bill before its official publication, it expands the powers of the head of state to introduce martial law in Ukraine and restrict the rights of local authorities in the event of its introduction.
"Poroshenko failed to implement this through changes in the Constitution, so now he decided to make the dream come true through changes to the Law “On the Legal Regime of Martial Law”, giving himself unconstitutional powers to stop the mandates of local councils and their chairmen", - she wrote on Facebook.
To ensure national security and deter Russian aggression, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other law enforcement agencies will be recruited in the Donbass. This was captured in legislation for the first time.
The bill also includes the establishment of cultural ties with people who stayed in the occupied territory and providing them humanitarian assistance. The Cabinet of Ministers, in turn, will have to carry out constant monitoring of observance of the rights and freedoms of people in the occupied territories.
At the same time, "Ukraine is not responsible for the unlawful actions of the Russian Federation, its Armed Forces and occupation administrations in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts".
A separate block in the discussion of this law is the introduction of the so-called "Minsk agreements" into the Ukrainian legal field. To date, Minsk Agreements are not a legal act. After their mentioning in the Law of Ukraine, their legal status changes.
"This item worries me because it will be the first official document that obliges us to comply with Minsk agreements, which, from our point of view, is not a source of international law, because it was not signed by the subjects of international law... This means that then we can be obliged to carry out a part that is not connected with security, the part which concerns political issues", - MP Mustafa Nayyem believes.
However, the authors of the draft law have an argument that they refer only to the "security" norms of Minsk agreements, and not to the document in general. But the very fact of the appearance of these "agreements" in the Ukrainian law can become the main stumbling block in the adoption of the law.
For example, former Defence Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko believes that "it is necessary to delete all references to the so-called "Minsk agreements" for the second reading as destructive for Ukraine in terms of their content and as legally void in the procedure for signing them".
The law "On special status" of the Donbass will be prolonged for another year
Quite unexpectedly, Petro Poroshenko introduced two drafts for the Donbass instead of one. The second relates to the extension of the Law "On special order of local self-government in certain districtss of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts" for another year (according to the current version, it is valid until October 18, 2017).
Petro Poroshenko introduced it to the parliament under the beautiful title "On creating the necessary conditions for a peaceful settlement of the situation in certain districts of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts". He even managed to include the question of introduction of a peacekeeping mission in this bill. Most likely, this was done as a lever to influence the deputies for the support.
"… creating the necessary conditions for deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission in some districts of the Donetsk and the Luhansk oblasts, in particular taking into account the Decree of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of March 17, 2015 No. 253-VIII "On approval of applications on behalf of Ukraine to the Security Council of the United Nations and Council of the European Union concerning the deployment of an international operation for the maintenance of peace and security in the territory of Ukraine", - the text of the bill says.
According to the People's Deputy from the Narodnyj Front faction Viktoriia Syumar, their faction suggested putting this issue in a separate bill.
"As far as I know, this was the position of both our faction and our leaders who spoke with the president on the topic that it is impossible to confuse these two categories. On the one hand, to recognize Russia as an aggressor, territories occupied by Russia, to create a system of protection, and at the same time to introduce Minsk agreements in the legislative field, which, unfortunately, are not super-effective today for the liberation of Ukrainian territory, so we developed a position to divide these two documents", -she said on Wednesday.
Earlier, the representative of Ukraine in the tripartite contact group Olha Ajvazovska said that the law on special order of local self-government in the Donbass should be extended to maintain sanctions against Russia.
"Unless it is prolonged, I think serious problems will arise in Ukraine, at least with sanctions for the Russian Federation and holding negotiations both in the Minsk and Normandy formats", - she said.
Both draft laws have both positive and negative aspects. In the first one, the president proposes to recognize Russia as an aggressor country, but he also introduces illegitimate Minsk agreements (let only a part about security) into the Ukrainian legislative field. The second document extends the scandalous law "On special status" of the Donbass, but at the same time creates the ground for introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission.
It is obvious that in the near future the Verkhovna Rada is expected to have heated discussions about these presidential initiatives, the outcome of which is difficult to predict.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV