Avakov speaks Balkanese in a Donbas reintegration plan

June 7, 2018

Despite an interesting day at the Verhovna Rada, what catches the eye of the blog is the public statement of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov relating to the (eventual) reintegration of the temporarily occupied Donbas.

After dismissing the “Minsk Agreements” as long since dead, Mr Avakov stated“Obviously, it’s time to develop a new, more effective strategy for resolving armed conflict and a detailed plan for the gradual restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We propose a strategy for the de-occupation and reintegration of the occupied territories of the Donbas on the basis of the “MECHANISM OF SMALL STEPS”.

It is necessary to define a new format that will be legitimate in terms of international law.


Formation of a legal framework for conflict resolution

Adoption of a package of legislative acts that will contribute to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Among them – two most important laws:

  • Adoption of the Amnesty Act , which affects most of the people living in the occupied territory and involved in the conflict. Amnesty will not affect those who have committed serious criminal or war crimes. Amnesty does not affect those who “have blood on their hands.” In relation to them, criminal proceedings must be commenced, and the guilty party is determined by the Ukrainian Law.
  • Adoption of the Law on Collaborators . It should be officially stated that, legally, every citizen of Ukraine is endowed with all civil rights in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine. And then, using the mechanism provided by the law, it will be necessary to determine the status of this citizen: whether he is a victim of an occupation regime (such is the majority); or a participant who, in the circumstances, cooperated with the occupation regime; or a criminal who killed our soldiers and participated in repressions against the civilian population. Accordingly, the law should determine the degree of public response to the corresponding status of each person.

This is a very difficult question regarding the level of readiness of society for a compromise, but it must be resolved. Thus, a foundation will be created, based on which the overwhelming majority of the population of the temporarily occupied territories will legitimately return to the legal field of Ukraine, receive civil rights and access to public services. Only then will it be possible to hold elections in these territories.

Communication strategy

The communication strategy within Ukraine, which explains to people the plans for our actions, is extremely important! It is absolutely necessary to achieve the understanding of the people and to support the civil society of Ukraine, since only the consolidation of the entire Ukrainian people and the transparency of processes will allow the program to be fully implemented, including unpopular but extremely necessary measures.

International Peacekeeping Mission

The introduction of an international peacekeeping mission . Determination of the status and order of attraction of international regulatory forces , international monitoring program, advisory and resource assistance.



A separate area of the occupied territories of the Donbas is selected and agreed upon, against which the opposing military formations are diverted beyond the boundary line – a demilitarized security zone is created.

Since it is impossible to find and have enter into Ukraine 20 to 40 thousand peacekeepers, which are necessary for the immediate de-occupation and reintegration of the entire temporarily occupied territory of the Donbas, it is proposed to start from a separate city or district (for example, Gorlovka and/or Novoazovsk district).

The Special International Peacekeeping Mission and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine take control of the said plot of territory and its boundaries.

  • they enter the territory of a certain city or area;
  • Ukrainian border guards and peacekeepers jointly take control of the border;
  • the rest of the rule of law and the legitimacy provided by the National Police of Ukraine, the National Guard of Ukraine, together with the “blue helmets”. Initially, perhaps with the assistance of volunteer combatants from among the local population, representing local and village councils.  
  • Within the territory liberated by Justice of Ukraine is preparing the electoral process and subsequent local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

No matter who wins these elections, it is crucial that the process is conducted in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine and the provision of free expression of will. Even if they choose a candidate with frankly pro-Russian views, in the strategic perspective, upon completion of the conflict resolution processes, this issue will be balanced in the coming years.

The work of all state institutes and law enforcement agencies of Ukraine is restored on the territory of the reintegrated area.

The main thing is to form a transitional administration, which will start work, based on Ukrainian legislation, with the central authorities on the procedures for reintegration and restoration.

The process of reintegration begins.

First of all – improving the quality of life of citizens in the de-occupied territory (health care, education, pensions and other types of social and household services, financial and banking, job creation, employment of the population).

The humanitarian de-mining process of the previously occupied territory is under way.

The area of ​​hostilities in the Donbas and its adjoining territory is one of the most polluted mines and explosive objects of regions in the world. According to the UN, the area of ​​mined areas in Ukraine is about 700 thousand hectares.

Immediate work is carried out to eliminate man-made and environmental risks

The area of ​​combat operations is always a zone of environmental disaster due to damage to soils, local flora and fauna, pollution of the territory. When it comes to Donbas, it is necessary to further take into account the specifics of the region in which there are numerous mines, enterprises (including chemical ones), and 1,200 sources of ionizing radiation. All of them bear the risk of contamination of sources of potable water, epidemics, emissions and explosions of methane and other harmful substances. Ukraine’s environmental catastrophe will become an ecological catastrophe for the whole of Europe! (Appendix 1)

The urgent program of checking and restoring Ukrainian documents for all people who lived in those years in the occupied territory is launched.

The degree of checking these people should be the highest, according to a special mechanism, so that Ukrainian passports were issued exclusively to Ukrainian citizens.

The process of restoration of socio-economic infrastructure begins: roads, bridges, establishments, enterprises .

According to various estimates, the recovery of socio-economic stability of the region will require at least 10 years and from 20 to 30 billion US dollars.

As in the near future, Ukraine is not able to compensate for losses from military aggression independently, special measures of economic support are needed:

– Legislative consolidation of the mechanism for attracting donors and investors and providing control over the spending of funds (Board for the distribution of funds);

– Creation of a Donbas rehabilitation agency (fund) with the participation of authoritative international organizations, for example, based on the Institute of Peace (Executive Vice President – William Taylor, Former US Ambassador to Ukraine in 2006-2009)

         AIM Strategic Goals:

  • to help prevent, manage and resolve ferocious conflicts both within and among countries;
  • to provide post-conflict stability and development;
  • to increase the potential of peacebuilding, tools and intellectual capital all over the world;
  • train, train, provide information to policy makers and those who implement it on the ground; students and the public.

 – tax and other preferences for investors;

– possible creation of free economic zones for the recovery of the Donbas economy.

– creation of a special reserve fund with the participation of international organizations.

Work is under way to return the displaced persons – the internal migration of the population to areas abandoned through war zones.

It should be noted that the return to the Donbass of people who have lived for several years outside Russian toxic propaganda will help restore the local population’s trust in the Ukrainian authorities and, to some extent, facilitate reintegration.

The participation of citizens residing in the formerly occupied territories in elections to the central authorities of Ukraine, but not earlier than in 3-5 years, is restored .

Elections may be held exclusively on demilitarized territory. They can not occur in the absence of the necessary safe environment and capable institutions.

Hasty elections can help to strengthen and restore conflict with the new force.

Angola, 1992 – the victory of one side in the elections with a margin of 1-2% provoked a new conflict and led to a new civil war . The war ended only in the early 2000s.

Elections may be held when the borders of the state are under its full control or control by international observers, otherwise there are no security guarantees on the day of voting.

In Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Liberia, elections took place after establishing effective border control (2-5 years).

In the case of Bosnia, the OSCE, under the pressure of Western governments, sanctioned the holding of elections, ignoring the lack of conditions for democratic voting. As a result, after the national elections in the leading positions there were individuals who were little interested in the full realization of the peace agreement.

The most adequate time span between the ceasefire and the election is 3 years after the cease-fire. If elections are held earlier than 2 years after the ceasefire in the case of young democracies, and less than in one year – in the case of developed democracies, this leads to the restoration of armed confrontation.

This time is necessary to ensure the condition for the honest and free expression of will and the formation of a moderate local force capable of counterbalancing the radicals.

In addition, this time is needed to return to the formerly occupied territories of refugees and internally displaced persons. You can not deny the right to participate in elections for refugees and temporarily displaced persons! It is necessary to give them the opportunity to return and learn in the places where they used to live permanently!

Changing electoral legislation requires the provision of at least 1 year to all participants in the election process (commissions, parties, voters, etc.) for familiarization with the new rules and the establishment of work.

Conducting national elections to the Verkhovna Rada in the formerly occupied territories to disarmament, demilitarization, restoration of control over the border, proper legislative and institutional provision of elections will not solve the conflict. The results of such elections will not be recognized by the majority of the parties to the conflict and, consequently, the whole process will be doomed to failure.



As a result of the implementation of the Plan on the liberated territory, the systematic work of the authorities is restored, the quality of life of people is improved, the security and law-enforcement are ensured, all processes of life are normalized. The cities and villages that have been depleted by war come to a normal peaceful life.

Then the project scales to neighboring areas. At the same time, each subsequent stage of de-occupation and reintegration will be easier, as local residents of liberated cities and villages will become “agents of influence,” an example and a model for neighbors.

Thus, it can be expected that the process of de-occupation and reintegration will go with increasing intensity and will be more efficient and less resource-consuming than an instant operation in the entire temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.



  • restoration of territorial integrity and peace in the eastern regions of Ukraine;
  • termination of further bloodshed and periodic escalation of armed “conflict-rippling”;
  • de-occupation, reintegration of occupied territories and post-conflict construction;
  •  stimulating the socio-economic development of territorial communities in previously occupied territories (improving the quality of life of the population through strengthening their capacity and social endurance, stimulating economic activity);
  • minimizing environmental risks and preventing man-made disasters.

Temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions:

  • improving the quality of life to the all-Ukrainian standard of social security, protection and security, as well as access to all public services;
  • peace and real, and not situational and temporary cessation of hostilities, with corresponding positive consequences;
  • the phased and non-conflictual nature of the reintegration process will contribute to the gradual reestablishment of mutual trust;
  • the inhabitants of the temporarily occupied territories, by means of democratic, fair and open elections, will independently choose the legal authorities in their regions. And then – they will be able to delegate their representatives to parliament and to take part in the presidential elections;
  • lawfully elected representatives of the temporarily occupied territories will have the right to participate in solving Donbass problems initially at the local, and then at the state level;
  • guaranteed infrastructure and economy restoration.


  • the parties to the peace process on the part of the EU (Germany, France, etc.) and the United States will be able to become real peacekeepers who have actively contributed to the peaceful settlement of armed conflict; This will prove the effectiveness of the institutional mechanisms of Euro-Atlantic cooperation;
  • The EU is protecting itself from the flow of refugees (including criminal elements), uncontrolled drug trafficking, and the illegal circulation of weapons from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. As a result, reducing the potential threat of crime and terrorist threats.


  • the opportunity to get out of a bad situation, “having saved the face”;
  • may receive additional arguments for relaxing sanctions;
  • the possibility of not fulfilling the financial obligation for expenditures in support of the socio-economic infrastructure of the temporarily occupied territories;
  • to lose the need to support another enclave of separatism, which over the population surpasses Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia together.

Appendix 1

Estimation of man-caused and ecological risks in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts

– There are over 1,200 sources of ionizing radiation located on 65 objects in the Donbass. According to experts, due to military actions, the uncontrollability of the operation and maintenance of sources of ionizing radiation, there is a real radiation threat. The hostilities damaged the integrity of the radioactive waste storage facilities at the Donetsk Chemical Plant and the Donetsk Specialized Combine.

– The concern “Stirol” belongs to potentially dangerous manufactures. In May 2014, it announced the cessation of the release of ammonia, its derivatives and other products at the plant due to the tense situation in the region and the desire of the company to “exclude all risks for employees and residents of the region.” However, underground storage tanks for the storage of chemical wastes (and not only ammonia) remained. It’s about huge companies in the area that are on the line of delimitation. In the case of ammonia entering the pipeline, the entry of foreign objects (fragments) or damage to them, pollution, soil, groundwater, atmosphere (due to evaporation), etc., that can harm the ecology of not only neighboring territories, but also of all Ukraine, as well as states bordering Ukraine.

– The threat of flooding of mines. As a result of stopping the pumps and falling into the mine of groundwater, some of them were flooded. According to experts, if water reaches the surface, the radiation level will exceed the permissible limits by a thousand times.

In addition, mine water is heavily mineralized and contaminated with harmful substances. If you do not start to pump out toxic poisonous water immediately, it can be mixed with ground fresh water, get into the rivers.

Another danger is the mine water pushing out methane, which accumulates in the basements and on the first floors of houses. There is enough one spark to make a powerful blast.

There are not many cases where the whole buildings collapse into the voids created by the mines. It is possible that the critical infrastructure can also fail.

There is information that militants arranged mass graves in abandoned mines. As a result, with the melting of snow or the release of groundwater, epidemics of hepatitis and other infections are possible.

– In the vicinity of the village of Novgorod there is a chemical waste storage facility of the phenol plant. It is located between the positions of the Ukrainian army and militants, which are at a distance of 400 meters from each other. A. Hug, deputy chairman of the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine, said that in this region it is necessary to establish a cease-fire regime and divest the parties to the conflict.

– In the area between Avdeyivka and Yasinuvat there is a Donetsk filtering station (DFS), which provides water supply to settlements located on both sides of the collision line. During the armed conflict, the DFS repeatedly found itself on the line of fire, which caused its work to stop, the flow of water to cities and villages was violated. According to experts, the continuation of hostilities near the DPS can provoke an ecological catastrophe.”

All very sensible – and to be fair, current legislation and presidential decree demands among others, the Interior Minister to submit plans for the reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories.  The Interior Minister then, is fulfilling his obligations by submitting this plan.  Others too are obliged to submit plans for consideration.  For those that read old books and enjoy relevant quotes, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill”. (Sun Tzu).  It remains to be seen whether Minister Avakov’s plan would manage such a difficult feat.

Certainly readers of a certain age, or of particular interest in matters Balkan, may recall the 1990s and will see many familiar steps and parallels within Minister Avakov’s prose.  In particular a reader may ponder the 15th January 1998 peaceful reintegration of the Podunavlje region and its return into the constitutional and legal system of the Republic of Croatia.

Naturally no two sets of circumstances are ever exactly the same.  Only a fool would believe it ever to be thus.  There are always differences, nuance, and a requirement to recognise those.  Despite similarities therefore, there will undoubtedly be peculiarities that require the “tweaking” of plans that have gone before.  A matter made exceptionally problematic by a belligerent Kremlin.

As yet with regard to Ukraine, there is no Security Council Resolution 1037 (1996), creating anything approaching the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES).  Neither is there an agreement that comes close to the 12th November 1995 Erdut Agreement.  Indeed The Kremlin is showing little interest in stopping its war of exhaustion (this is not a war of attrition) upon both Ukraine and its supporters.  Thus Minister Avakov’s plan may well gather dust on a shelf in the Interior Ministry for many, many years to come.  Nevertheless the Rule of P applies – Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance – it is simply necessary to reevaluate the plan periodically and blow the dust off it.

The key parts of the Croatian reintegration plan, aside from avoiding claims of ethnic cleansing, were the demilitarisation, disarmament and demobilisation of military and paramilitary forces, plus a vigorous weapons buy-back programme (as advocated by this blog for at least 3 years).  A return of those who wished to return to their homes was completed (with the return process accelerated after the completion of the mission).  The law on “Co-validation” adopted in 1997 confirmed certain legal affairs and acts of the so-called Republic of Krajina which were not deemed legal before.  An agreement on the “Normalization of Relations between Croatia and Yugoslavia” was signed on 23 August 1996 (two years prior to the Kosovo war).  Local elections were held on 13th/14th April 1997, simultaneously with elections throughout Croatia and from that day onward the Podunavlje region was fully integrated in the Croatian legal system.  Thus, in line with the Croatian Constitution representatives of Serb minority were elected in local, regional and national government bodies.

Naturally, perhaps the most controversial legislation was the adoption of an “Amnesty Law”.  In fact two were adopted (in 1992 and 1996).  This amnesty was granted to all those who committed criminal acts in connection with armed conflict, except for war crimes. Undoubtedly there will have been a notable number of (potential) criminals from that region who escaped rightful criminal prosecution.

There is no way that those with an inbuilt moral code of “fair play” would find amnesties easy to swallow – whether it be amnesties for acts in war, criminal amnesties or tax amnesties.  Indeed throughout the 2000’s and onward, “amnesties” have become less popular by way of solutions.  It is an idea that is no longer as freely floated around the UN as it once was – and perhaps rightly so.

There are of course other considerations relating to Minister Avakov’s statement aside from his obligations under the “reintegration” legislation and presidential decrees requiring plans to be submitted.  Mr Avakov (not for the first time) thoroughly dismisses the “Minsk Agreement”, which everybody and his dog claimed was still-born before the ink had dried.  Nevertheless, whatever President Poroshenko may think privately, he is not in a position to say so publicly.  Is Minister Avakov speaking for President Poroshenko?  It seems rather unlikely that the President would employ an Interior Minister with who he has a very cool relationship to present his position through this particular veil.

It is not necessarily Minister Avakov electioneering either, or attempting to distance himself from President Poroshenko.  Their differences are a matter of public knowledge.  More to the point however, few, if anybody would expect any (significant, or even minimal) progress before either presidential or Verkhovna Rada elections of 2019.  Why would the Kremlin give up such a lever of influence before or during election campaigns in Ukraine?  Thus nobody will expect this plan to be implemented before 2020 (or more likely much later).

This statement, and this plan, may therefore be (more or less) simply a matter of the Interior Minister complying with his “reintegration” obligations, whilst seemingly borrowing heavily from a Croatian playbook that will need some tweaking.

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