Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists have demonstrated in Kyiv against the signing of accords with separatists from the country’s east, Russia and European monitors in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to allow a local election in Donbas that could lead to granting of a special status to the region, the protesters gathered outside his office on Tuesday night with banners reading slogans such as, “No to capitulation”.
“The war is ongoing in the Ukraine’s east for almost five years,” Rodion Kudryashov, a leader of the nationalist National Corps party, said.
“Ukrainian soldiers die there, shed their blood, volunteers provide aid. All of the community cares about a Ukrainian independent and sovereign state and then, in one day, all these efforts are being broken by such a capitulation statement.”
Petro Poroshenko,Ukraine’s former president, was not at the rally in Ukraine’s capital but on Wednesday he also referred to the agreement as “a capitulation to Russia”.
“Today, the participation of peacekeepers [in eastern Ukraine] is absolutely crucial as well as adopting the roadmap for implementing the Minsk Accord,” Poroshenko said.
“Without that, this [Minsk agreement] is capitulation to Russia. I draw your attention to the fact that they [the Ukrainian government] were not offered anything, they were offered only to be there at the meeting. And for this meeting Ukraine risks paying and surrendering,” he added.
Zelenskyy said on Tuesday at a briefing in Kiev that the country agreed to a snap local election in the east, which has been controlled by Russia-backed separatists since April 2014.
He sought to dispel fears about excessive concessions to the separatists, saying the election would be held only when Ukraine regains control of all its borders with Russia.
“There won’t be any elections under the barrel of a gun,” Zelenskyy said in response to criticism that his administration bowed to Russia’s demands. “There won’t be any elections there if the troops are still there.”
Separatist leaders and the Ukrainian government also pledged to pull back troops from two locations in the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions early next week.
Zelenskyy insisted the local election would be held according to Ukrainian law, meaning all candidates and political parties should be allowed to run.
Separatist leaders have rejected that idea in the past, saying they would not allow Ukrainian parties that included nationalist politicians to run.
Both the separatists and Ukraine agreed the election will be considered valid as long as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe determine they are free and fair, Zelenskyy said.