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1 Sep, 2014 11:14

Donetsk, Lugansk Republics urge Kiev to recognize their ‘special status’

At talks in Minsk, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have urged Kiev to acknowledge their “special status.” If their demands are met, they will not lay claim to other parts of Ukraine, the rebel republics said.

The initial statement said that if Kiev guarantees their “special status,” then the Donetsk and Lugansk republics will do everything possible “to preserve Ukraine’s common economic, cultural and political space and the space of the entire Ukraine-Russian civilization.”

This was interpreted as the two self-proclaimed republics seeking autonomy within Ukraine while wishing to remain part of it.

However, later Donetsk People’s Republic Deputy PM Andrey Purgin explained that it’s about “the common security space of Ukraine, Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, about post-war reconstruction of the economic, cultural, and social connections with Ukraine, and also about the fact that the DNR and LNR wouldn’t lay claim to other Ukrainian territories.”

The statement comes after a contact group on the crisis in eastern Ukraine finished its work in Minsk, Belarus.

A man stands at the top of a house destroyed during the recent shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, August 31, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

In their initial demands, LNR and DNR representatives called on the Ukrainian government to end their military operation in the country’s east so that parliamentary and local elections can take place freely.

The president, government and [parliament] Verkhovna Rada should accept… decrees granting immediate recovery from the humanitarian catastrophe, acknowledging the special status of the territories under the control of the People’s Republics, creating conditions - first of all stopping the ‘anti-terror’ operations - for free elections of local authorities and MPs,” the document with the republics' position reads.

The document also urged Kiev to guarantee “the right to use the Russian language at an official level on the territories of the People’s Republics.

After the government of President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in March, the new authorities immediately started to introduce the legislation curbing the Russian language. Though the law failed to materialize in the end, the initiative was one of the major factors that triggered the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The self-proclaimed republics were represented by DNR Deputy PM Andrey Purgin and the chairman of the LNR’s Supreme Council, Aleksey Karyakin.

Anti-goverment fighters stand in front of destroyed trains at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk August 31, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

Before the meeting commenced, Purgin said he had brought to Minsk proposals aimed at curbing the military activity and reducing the number of the victims.

I’ve come with the suggestions to find common ground to curb war and casualties,” he said, adding that those are “the initial suggestions for negotiations’ process.

The propositions consist of “eight or nine points,” Purgin said and also include a suggestion to create a commission that would look into peaceful resolution of the conflict and the reconstruction of the Donetsk Region.

He also admitted that he doesn’t expect a breakthrough from the meeting of the so-called contact group aimed at solving the Ukrainian conflict.

Representatives of Russia, OSCE and Kiev were also part of the talks.

The meeting has been going on for four hours, and the next one is set for September 5, according to Donetsk People Republic Vice Premier Purgin.