Ukraine rebels declare new ‘state of Malorossiya’
Kiev, Ukraine - Russian-backed rebels fighting against Kiev announced on Tuesday a plan to create a new ‘state’ they said would take the place of Ukraine and have its capital in their territory.
Ukraine’s pro-Western authorities immediately ridiculed the idea as a Kremlin project that they would never allow to get off the ground.
The separatists said the proposed country would be founded after a referendum and called Malorossiya, a tsarist-era name meaning ‘Little Russia’ that once described most of the area covering modern-day Ukraine.
A constitution presented by rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said his self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, neighbouring rebel-held Lugansk and other regions had agreed to ‘declare the establishment of a new state, which is the successor of Ukraine’.
The document - released by the separatists’ news agency - said rebel bastion Donetsk would become the capital, while Kiev would be reduced to the status of a ‘historical and cultural centre’.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin quickly derided the plan on Twitter as another ‘show’ by the insurgents’ ‘Kremlin puppet masters’.
“We and our partners will not let this happen,” he vowed.
The proposal seems to stand
no chance of gaining traction and even the insurgents appeared unable to agree on it.
The press service for Lugansk rebel chief Igor Plotnitsky said he had not been consulted on the project.
The surprise announcement of Malorossiya could, however, further dent an already stalled peace process that has failed to end more than three years of fighting that has claimed the lives of some 10,000 people.
This file photo shows a billboard featuring the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Alexander Zakharchenko (centre) in Donetsk on March 18, 2015. The Russian text on the billboard reads: ‘We are grateful to the defenders of the fatherland’