The international community should not demand that the Ukrainian government grants autonomy to its eastern regions until Russia ensures security in the region, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius argues in an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal.
Linas Linkevičius
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

The minister voices his support for Ukrainian politicians who delay the adoption of laws granting wider autonomy to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. In his words, Ukraine is facing "military, economic and political aggression" from Moscow.

"But how can we push for political reforms and decentralization when Russian military equipment is still in the streets of Donetsk and Lugansk, and when international monitors have no access to these territories? How can we ensure that commitments will be kept when the aggressor isn’t even acknowledged as a party to the conflict?" Linkevičius writes.

The Minsk agreements, which were signed last year and envisages measures to give more autonomy to Ukraine's regions and hold local elections there, remain the only way, Linkevičius argues, but first there need to be effective ceasefire and demilitarization. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) must be given access to all areas, Linkevičius argues.

"There are currently more tanks in the region than OSCE monitors, and these tanks get to move about freely, something that is denied to the members of the OSCE," the Lithuanian minister said.

According to Linkevičius, the demand for decentralization before de-escalation "would only fuel the extreme sentiments in the country, forces that already want to take up arms to take back the occupied territories".

The Lithuanian minister's thoughts largely echo statements by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday when he said that autonomy for eastern regions would not be granted until the truce was effectively implemented.

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany agreed on the truce last February in the Belarusian capital Minsk. The West agreed to ease economic sanctions on Russia in exchange for implementing the agreements.

But both Ukrainian troops and Russia-supported separatists have complained recently on an increase in truce violations.

The war in eastern Ukraine has already claimed more than 9,000 lives since 2014.

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