Ukraine: Constitutional changes rejected by separatists

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko unveiled several changes to the Constitution to Parliament on July 1, and has since been barraged by criticism and outright rejection from belligerent separatists still occupying vast swathes of the eastern part of the country. The changes largely amount to a decrease in overall presidential authority, granting local towns the significant provision of seeing how tax revenue will be spent. However, largely omitted was the one stipulation that separatist leaders have demanded since the beginning of the Minsk peace process, namely that they be granted “semi-autonomous” status indefinitely. As it stands, the changes only allow for the provinces to maintain their semi-autonomous authority for three years, calling it an “interim period.”

Poroshenko’s televised address said that “decentralization” remains a major key initiative of his policy work. Kremlin spokespeople announced their “deep concern” over the changes, stating that the most important stipulation of the Minsk II Peace Accords of February 2015, namely that separatist leaders be consulted over any constitutional changes, was not implemented. Separatist leaders of Donetsk (Zakharchenko) and Luhansk (Plotnitsky) both complained that neither of them were consulted on the changes either, amounting to what seems to be a fully unilateral action by Kiev to undermine the accords.

On the other hand, things seem to be looking up for Kiev for the time being. With Ukraine’s next interest payment on its substantial sovereign debts amounting to a total of some $19 billion on July 24, Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko agreed to talk to private creditholders privately, greatly reducing the likelihood that Kiev will make good on its passed legislation of last month to issue a moratorium on debt payments and drive the country into a default. The key concession agreed to was a haircut on the total principal of privately-held debt, although the total size of such a reduction has yet to be agreed.

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News Briefs:

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