Ukraine Live Day 570: As October 25 Elections Approach, ‘Normandy Four’ Address Terms and Conditions

September 10, 2015
Two released Ukrainian prisoners of war (R) wait as four released Pro-Russian rebels (L) walk during a prisoner exchange between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels near Donetsk on September 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ALEXEY FILIPPOV

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As October 25 Elections Approach, ‘Normandy Four’ Address Terms and Conditions

As the October 25 local elections in Ukraine approach, their modalities have begun to preoccupy the “Normandy Four” leaders (France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine). Today, September 10 the German Embassy released a statement citing Steffen Seiberg, spokesman for the federal government of Germany, reported:

“In the coming weeks, the parties should agree on terms and conditions of the local elections in the war-affected areas on the basis of Ukrainian legislation and standards of the OSCE/ODIHR,” Seibert said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR) were “ready to hold local elections on the basis of Ukrainian legislation,” reported.

“The first condition for the preparation of elections in Donbas is the direct consultation and coordination of modalities for these elections. Both DPR and LPR are ready to hold them on the basis of Ukrainian law and to provide the OSCE observers with the right to monitor the process, but they want to agree all of this in consultation with the Ukrainian authorities,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Much will depend on the specifics of what is meant by “Ukrainian law,” as when President Petro Poroshenko has spoken of elections under the law, he has meant the legalization of all parties (currently pro-Kiev parties are banned in the “People’s Republics,”), freedom of the media, access for monitors and so on. Separatist spokesman Denis Pushilin had indicated that pro-Ukrainian parties would be barred from the ballot.

“Ukrainian law” above all means having the same uniform Ukraine-wide dates, as points out:

As UNIAN reported earlier, on July 24, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Parliament (EP) delegates led by Chair of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok agreed that the organization by Russian-backed militants of separate local elections in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk’s People Republic on October 18 and November 1, respectively, would have disastrous consequences for the Minsk process and deteriorate the security situation in Donbas.

As it is, local elections will not be held in separatist-occupied territories, which is 125 towns in Donetsk Region and 146 in Lugansk Region, as well as some frontline towns under Ukrainian control.

There’s also the issue of return of control of the Ukrainian border to Kiev; some 100 kilometers of Ukraine’s land border with Russia are under the control of the hybrid Russian-separatist army. These and other issues of the “ceasefire” will continue to be addressed; POW exchanges continued this week. The next meeting of the “Normandy” format is September 12.

Fighting, while reduced since the declaration of the latest “ceasefire” on September 1, continues. There were no fatalities today but one soldier was injured in battle near Avdeyevka and Markina, and a civilian woman was hurt in a blast by an unknown explosive device in Stanitsa Luganskaya, Oleksandr Motuzianyk of Ukraine’s presidential administration said today, according to Interfax Ukraine.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick