Ukraine rebels announce disputed elections in October
A top pro-Russian rebel announced plans Thursday to hold local elections in October that would cement the separatists' semi-autonomous status within a united Ukraine.
Alexander Zakharchenko said the October 18 vote would be conducted "on the basis of Ukrainian law...in the parts where it does not contradict the constitution and law" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.
Eastern Ukrainian insurgents and Kiev don't agree on the implementation of a peace deal signed with the help of Germany and France in February that is designed to end the ex-Soviet country's bloody 15-month war.
The so-called Minsk II accord requires the two sides to hold immediate consultations about elections that could be conducted in rebel-run parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions before the end of the year.
Ukrainian laws imply that such a vote could only be organised by the central election commission in Kiev -- not the insurgents themselves.
The separatists have also previously threatened to bar any local official who backs Kiev's rule from running for any office.
Zakharchenko's vague comments about how exactly the planned vote would take place drew a cautious but largely negative response from the Western-backed president of Ukraine.
"I believe that attempts to conduct illegal elections that do not correspond to Ukrainian laws... will amount to a harsh Russian attack on Minsk II," Poroshenko said on a visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.
"I am certain that this would be irresponsible and would have ruinous consequences on attempts to de-escalate the situation in individual (rebel-run) districts" of the industrial east.
Zakharchenko's announcement came one day after Poroshenko proposed new constitutional amendments that failed to spell out the rebels' temporary right to self-rule agreed in the Belarussian capital.
The conflict has killed more than 6,500 people and sporadically escalates along the 500-kilometre (about 300-mile) front that splits a separatist region roughly the size of Wales from the rest of Ukraine.
© 2015 AFP