Ukraine Update #49: Ukraine Parliament Passes Sweeping New Laws 

WASHINGTON, D.C. September 16, 2014

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, NCSEJ Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSEJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSEJ Executive Director


Ukraine Update #49


In what's being called a historic moment, the Ukrainian parliament today passed a series of significant laws, which: ratify Ukraine's Association with the EU; grant special status to districts in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions; grant amnesty to pro-Russian separatists; and set up a process to review possible violations of law by current and former government officials.

The ratification of the Association Agreement with the European Union is a significant step toward Ukraine's closer integration with Europe, aspirations for which sparked the Maidan revolution last year. The agreement includes free trade provisions and provides for economic and political cooperation on a number of issues, including rule of law and human rights.

While some analysts view the agreement as a significant step toward reform in Ukraine, others are concerned about the immediate effects on potentially losing trade with Russia, which still remains Ukraine's largest trading partner.

Moscow is harshly critical of the agreement and has threatened to retaliate. During negotiations among the EU, Russia, and Ukraine last week, the parties agreed to delay the implementation of the Association Agreement provisions until January 1, 2016.

The law on the special status for districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions grants limited self-rule, for three years, to the areas currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists, with local elections to be held on December 7, 2014. The law also guarantees the right to use of Russian (or any other language) in these areas, allows for cooperation with neighboring Russian regions, and creates local militia units that will operate under supervision of local authorities.

A number of members of parliament refused to support the law, including many in the Batkivshchyna and Svoboda parties. The leader of Batkivshchyna, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, called the law "humiliating and betraying." The Svoboda party leadership made similar statements. A number of the Maidan activists also criticized the concessions to the separatists.

Many critics of the law, provisions of which were a precondition for the ceasefire agreement, believe it will create a frozen conflict within Ukraine, permanently destabilizing the area. Others point out that the autonomy offered to the eastern regions is limited, and it is more important to secure peace. The military confrontation, which has been going for months, has undermined Ukraine's economy and displaced thousands of Ukrainians. It is not clear, however, whether the law will satisfy the pro-Russian separatist in Eastern Ukraine, who have previously demanded complete independence from Ukraine

The amnesty law grants conditional amnesty to pro-Russian rebels who give up their weapons. Amnesty, however, will not be offered to those believed to be responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July.

Some pro-Russian militants have said they will not give up the arms, and reports of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions despite the peace agreement continue.

The law on lustration establishes processes for investigating current members' of Ukraine's government involvement in crimes committed by the Yanukovych regime. The bill, however, has been amended and now excludes members of Parliament, judges of the Constitutional Court, and other elected posts. Ukraine's judicial branch has been criticized as one of the most corrupt of Ukraine's institutions.

Similarly, many analysts point out while the upcoming October parliamentary elections will be a step toward reforming the legislative branch, without an investigation into a financial backing of those lawmakers who represented corrupt interests during the previous regime, the changes in the composition of the new parliament would be nominal.

NCSEJ will continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine, and provide you with critical and timely information.

Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union. 
Phone: 202-898-2500 
NCSEJ is a beneficiary of The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations. 
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