East­ern Ukrainian sep­a­ratists pro­claim new state

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

SEP­A­RATISTS in east­ern Ukraine yes­ter­day pro­claimed a new state that as­pires to in­clude not only the ar­eas they con­trol, but also the rest of Ukraine.

The sur­prise an­nounce­ment, in the rebel strong­hold of Donetsk, casts fur­ther doubt on the 2015 cease­fire deal that was sup­posed to stop fight­ing in Ukraine’s in­dus­trial heart­land and bring those ar­eas back into Kiev’s fold, while grant­ing them wide au­ton­omy. It also caught some rebels un­aware, and they said they had no in­ten­tion of join­ing the new state.

Over 10 000 peo­ple have died in fight­ing af­ter Rus­sian-backed rebels took con­trol of parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk re­gions in April 2014, af­ter Rus­sia an­nexed Ukraine’s Crimean penin­sula. The rebels orig­i­nally sought to join Rus­sia, but the Krem­lin stopped short of an­nex­ing the area or pub­li­cis­ing its mil­i­tary sup­port for the rebels.

Donetsk separatist leader Alexan­der Zakharchenko said rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of other Ukrainian re­gions, would form a state called Malorossiya.

Most of the ar­eas, which are cur­rently part of Ukraine, were re­ferred to as Malorossiya, or Little Rus­sia, when they were part of the Rus­sian Em­pire.

Zakharchenko said they were draw­ing up a con­sti­tu­tion that would be put to a pop­u­lar vote later.

“We be­lieve that the Ukrainian state as it was can­not be re­stored,” Zakharchenko said in re­marks car­ried by the Tass news agency. “We, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the re­gions of the for­mer Ukraine, ex­clud­ing Crimea, pro­claim the cre­ation of a new state which is a suc­ces­sor to Ukraine.”

Although sep­a­ratists in the east do have sym­pa­this­ers in other Ukrainian re­gions, they have not at­tempted to cap­ture ter­ri­to­ries there, nor do they have any po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion there. Separatist lead­ers in Luhansk, how­ever, later de­nied be­ing part of the deal.

A lo­cal news web­site, Luhansk In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, quoted rebel rep­re­sen­ta­tive Vladimir Degt­yarenko as say­ing they were not in­formed of the plans and have “great doubts about the ex­pe­di­ency of such steps”.

Through­out the con­flict, the re­bel­con­trolled ar­eas have been ruled by self-pro­claimed au­thor­i­ties in Donetsk and Luhansk, who call them­selves the Donetsk Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic and the Luhansk Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic. Separatist lead­ers in Luhansk, un­like their coun­ter­parts in Donetsk, have tended to stay away from di­rectly ex­press­ing in­ten­tions to join Rus­sia.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A lo­cal res­i­dent sits in his house, which was dam­aged by re­cent shelling, in the rebel-con­trolled city of Donetsk, Ukraine.

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