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Ukraine: Protesters Push Back Against Peace Plan For East

Ukraine: Protesters Push Back Against Peace Plan For East
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on October 6 faced the first large-scale public challenge to his policies when thousands took to the streets in Kyiv to protest plans to hold local elections and grant autonomy to parts of eastern Ukraine under the control of Russia-backed separatists.

The protest occurred on the eve of the start of the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the frontline. Citing ongoing separatist attacks, the government halted the withdrawal on October 7.

The withdrawal is part of a multi-step process, proposed by former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in 2015, to deescalate tensions in the region. The so-called Minsk agreements, which call for a troop withdrawal by all sides and the eventual elections under Ukrainian law, have existed since 2015, but, so far, without result.

On October 1, Ukraine signed on to the Steinmeier Formula via a letter to Ambassador Martin Sajdik, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representative to the Trilateral Contact Group. The Trilateral Contact Group is a body made up of the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine, which attempts to facilitate a peace deal on the Donbas conflict zone.

Zelenskiy stated in an October 3 video that the Ukrainian government had written that it is “in the process of approval of the wording” of the Formula, according to a translation by the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.

Though promoted by the government as a breakthrough, many Ukrainians, mindful of the roughly 13,000 people killed and over 1 million displaced in more than five years of fighting with Donbas separatists, object that the Steinmeier Formula amounts to “capitulation.”

Zelenskiy's letter has been widely misinterpreted by media as an agreement with the de facto leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk. The president categorically denied that any such agreement exists.

Language from the Formula would make up part of a yet-to-be-written law on a special status for Donbas, the Ukrainian leader stated on October 3.

Implementation of the Formula would eventually lead to full-scale peace talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France – the first since 2016.

Editor’s Note: Like other media, Current Time English initially reported that Zelenskiy had reached an agreement with separatist leaders about elections and a troop withdrawal. As stated above, Zelenskiy’s agreement to the Steinmeier Formula came via an October 1 letter to Ambassador Martin Sajdik, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office’s special representative to the Trilateral Contact Group.

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