Delete “ATO” and insert “Temporarily occupied territories”

February 20, 2018

On 18th January an entry appeared following 280 Verkhovna Rada deputies voting through the final reading of the “reintegration law” relating to the occupied Donbas.

The 8th February witnessed the Verkhovna Rada Speaker sign the law and send it onward for Presidential signature.

On 20th February President Poroshenko signed the law – which is a framework law requiring a lot of subsequent subservient legislation and/or Presidential Decrees (almost exclusively the later to avoid dalliance within the parliament no doubt).

It now remains to be seen what, and by when, will be forthcoming to put meat on the framework bones.

The 1st April is the date set by President Poroshenko for submission of that which would fill out the framework law into functioning and effectively implemented structures and processes – and hopefully what is produced will not be indicative of April Fools Day.

Despite the realities on the ground, as yet just what geographical area is precisely recognised as “occupied territories” has yet to be determined for the purposes of the legislation.  Borders and a list of populated areas within the temporarily occupied territories of the Donbas will be determined by the President of Ukraine on the proposal of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine – Stepan Poltorak, in turn upon the basis of proposals of the General Staff of the Supreme Armed Forces – Viktor Muzenko.

When that area has been formally identified/codified, the strategic leadership of the forces and assets that are involved in insuring national security and defense measures, will be carried out by the General Staff and the leadership directly in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions by the Commander of the United Forces.

The Commander of the United Forces is yet to be identified (at least publicly), let alone appointed by President Poroshenko upon the formal recommendation of the Chief of the General Staff.  It will be interesting to see who gets the nomination – and by extension what that appointment will tell an informed reader.

The candidate once nominated (and no doubt the entire NSDC rather than simply Messrs Muzenko and Poltorak will be involved in that selection process)  as the Commander of the United Forces will exercise their power via the Joint Operational Headquarters of the Armed Forces, which doesn’t really exist in any meaningful and legal sense yet either.

Perhaps less urgent, yet still subject to the April Fools Day deadline set by President Poroshenko, is an obligation by the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence to have a plan for the events when Russia effectively leaves the temporarily occupied territories – if and when that happens.

In the war of exhaustion that is the occupied Donbas, to be blunt there are few public signs that The Kremlin are going to exhaust themselves and still expect a resolution upon “Kremlin terms” – or at least to be seen to be upon “Kremlin terms”.  For all the talk of peacekeepers, and the tentative political preparations for such an event, when thinking about any UN peacekeeping mission it is necessary to remember who sits within the UNSC with powers of veto.

Whatever the case, a reader may hope that a sensible, achievable yet sufficiently flexible plan, and a contingency plan, are forthcoming – but as any such plan(s) are unlikely to be executed in the immediate future, that then necessitates the requirement of review on a fairly frequent basis lest the situation on the ground change (somehow) and the plan(s) be found unfit for purpose when they are required to function swiftly and efficiently.

Nevertheless, despite a particularly unfortunate choice of date by President Poroshenko, by or upon 1st April it is perhaps likely a reader may see the first meat about to be put upon the framework bones of the occupied Donbas “reintegration” law.

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