The Press

Rebels’ state proposal stuns allies


UKRAINE: A surprise proposal by rebels in eastern Ukraine to create a new state has caught their allies off guard and sparked protests from the government in Kiev and its supporters in Europe.

Pro-Russian separatist­s based in the city of Donetsk said yesterday they would unite their two self-proclaimed republics.

The move appeared to be a nonstarter, however, as the other rebel group denied agreeing to the proposal, and Russia cautioned about the implicatio­ns of such a step for peace efforts in the region. Another Donetsk separatist leader later backtracke­d.

‘‘We believe the Ukrainian state as it was can’t be restored,’’ Alexander Zakharchen­ko, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was quoted by Russia’s Interfax news service as saying.

The new state, Malorossiy­a, would have Donetsk as its capital and would court other regions of the country in a bid to replace Ukraine in its current form, Zakharchen­ko said

The conflict in Ukraine’s easternmos­t regions erupted after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and has cost more than 10,000 lives. A peace accord signed in Belarus’s capital, Minsk, the following year remains largely unfulfille­d.

Malorossiy­a, or Little Russia, referred during czarist times to an area roughly covering modern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has in the past spoken of Novorossiy­a, or New Russia, a concept that referred to swathes of land once owned by the Russian empire.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko maintained yesterday that he would continue efforts to restore sovereignt­y over the rebelheld lands.

France’s Foreign Ministry urged Russia to declare the separatist­s’ plan a breach of the Minsk peace agreement. France has been mediating negotiatio­ns over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, along with Germany. The United States also appointed its own envoy this month to accelerate progress towards a settlement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the proposal, instead reiteratin­g Russia’s backing for the Minsk peace deal.

The announceme­nt was the personal initiative of Zakharchen­ko, and the authoritie­s in Moscow found out about it from the media, Peskov said.

Russia’s representa­tive to the peace process, Boris Gryzlov, said the idea did not comply with the Minsk pact. ’’I interpret this only as an invitation to discussion­s; the declaratio­n carries no legal consequenc­es.’’

The proposal ‘‘isn’t a real political subject’’, Gryzlov said.

– Bloomberg

 ??  ?? Alexander Zakharchen­ko
Alexander Zakharchen­ko

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