Defying peace agreements reached in the Minsk, Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine started on Oct. 2 holding“primaries” for local elections in the areas where they have seized control from the Ukrainian government. A final vote for seats on local councils in the areas of Donbas controlled by the separatists is scheduled for Nov. 6. Kyiv views the elections as illegal, as the Ukrainian parliament has yet to adopt separate legislation for them, as required under the Minsk peace agreement. Ukraine has consistently resisted attempts by Russia to short-circuit the Minsk agreements by holding local elections in the occupied territories – a step towards reintegrating them with the rest of Ukraine – before it has removed its servicemen and weapons from eastern Ukraine.
Russia denies sending weapons and soldiers into eastern Ukraine to foment a conflict and support the separatists, but there is now ample evidence that these denials are false, and that the “uprising” in eastern Ukraine was largely directed by the Kremlin.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Oleksandr Zakharchenko, was quoted as saying that the preliminary elections were necessary “on the one hand, to solve our own problems in building a state system, on the other hand, to show that the claims made by Ukrainian side are not significant.”