The Verkhovna Rada, the unicameral parliament of Ukraine, adopted a law on January 18 that establishes Ukrainian sovereignty over the temporarily Russian-occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk, commonly known as Donbass. The Rada’s newspaper, the Voice of Ukraine, reported that this legislation took effect on February 24 and will pave the way for the reintegration of the Donbass region.
The conflict in the Donbass region originated in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, and tensions between pro-Russian and anti-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine culminated in violence and warfare.
The law declares that the boundaries and the list of occupied district, towns, villages, and homes will be determined by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. It also stipulates that Russia will be responsible for any financial damage and humanitarian violations it causes as a result of the occupation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned the law on February 11, claiming that Ukraine would be making a “colossal mistake” and breaching the Minsk Accords of 2014 and 2015, which encouraged a ceasefire and a withdrawal of troops, among other stipulations. Russian lawmakers stated that the law is “full of hatred” and is intended to “clear land with several million residents of all people.” They note that the law made no mention of the Minsk Accords.
Nonetheless, Poroshenko signed the law on February 20, denying any violation of international law or of the Minsk Accords.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the passing of the law by claiming that Ukraine was finally “committing itself to a military solution” to the conflict in southeast Ukraine and legalizing the mobilization of the Ukrainian army against civilians.
The Russian government will not be able to fully respond to the issue until March 21, which is three days after their presidential election, scheduled for March 18.