16 Apr 2018 16:21

Ukrainian interior minister favors tactic of small steps in Donbas

KYIV. April 16 (Interfax) - Donbas territories can return back under Kyiv's control in a peaceful way using the tactic of small steps, and a peacekeeping mission could be an efficient way of aiding the process, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.

"In the current circumstances, we cannot plan a military operation [...] without the risk of a full-scale clash with the Russian army. This is a fact. Therefore, President Poroshenko is talking about a peacekeeping mission, about blue helmets. This is one of the mechanisms that may be efficient," Avakov said in an interview with the Ukrayinska Pravda online publication on Monday.

He completely dismissed the idea of peacekeeping patrols acting together with armed groups of the unrecognized entities in Donbas.

After peacekeeping units enter a certain territory, Ukrainian justice agencies should be reestablished there, Avakov said. "Some citizens representing the Ukrainian justice system should enter there from our side with a Ukrainian flag. He comes to the nearest district council, hoists a Ukrainian flag there, and holds elections to local councils in line with Ukrainian law. This is how we can establish a legitimate government elected in line with our law," he said.

Avakov pointed out that his plan of returning eastern Ukrainian territories under Kyiv's control envisions the use of "a tactic of small steps, which everyone applauds to."

It is impossible to reintegrate the entire Donbas territory immediately, Avakov said. "There are not enough blue helmets for the entire territory. Therefore, I propose, for instance, that Horlivka or the Novoazovsk district be taken for a start. This is the plan: peacekeepers enter there and stand along the border, say, of the city of Horlivka or the rural Novoazovsk district," Avakov said.

Both blue helmets and Ukrainian border guards should immediately take the border with the uncontrolled territory under control, Avakov said. "Ukrainian justice bodies shall enter this territory, which again becomes Ukrainian territory, and hold elections in line with our law," he said.

Based on the government bodies elected in keeping with Ukrainian law and representatives of the Ukrainian central government, transitional administrations should be formed, Avakov said. "The central government should go there together with Ukrainian police forces. After that, Ukraine should adopt amnesty legislation. It should apply to absolutely everyone except those who have blood on their hands, those who killed our soldiers and those who were involved in reprisals against civilians," Avakov said.

In the future, international foundations might be involved to settle issues of the territories' transitional statute and restore the infrastructure and the people's living standards, he said.

An similiar procedure then would be applied in other districts of Donbas, he said.

Avakov said he was confident that, if the small step tactic is implemented, Ukraine will be able to gradually "ensure a situation in which Ukrainian border guards are deployed along the Ukrainian-Russian border and fully control it."

"Blue helmets which Poroshenko is negotiating with will be standing along with them," he said.