Eastern Ukrainian separatists proclaim new state
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.
A local resident sits in his house, which was damaged by recent shelling, in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine.