Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) Andriy Parubiy has signalled that Kyiv is prepared to suspend constitutional reforms decentralising power away from the central Government. His comments made on 9 June also suggested that the administration could abandon all constitutional amendments establishing a special status for the rebel held Donbas republics and restart the decentralisation process without them.
Ukraine committed to devolve power to separatist held areas as part of the February 2015 Minsk II peace agreement that helped broker an end to major fighting in the South-East. Constitutional changes decentralising power to the rebels passed a first vote in the Rada in September 2015, amidst lethal clashes with ultra-nationalists opposed to the measures, but have stalled since. Most Ukrainians see the changes as a major concession to the rebels and their Russian backers and therefore oppose them. The Government only has a very small majority in the Rada and has been unable to generate enough support amongst MPs for the unpopular amendments to hold a second and final vote.
The lack of progress has prompted the West to put considerable pressure on Kyiv to advance the peace process, which has responded by seeking to focus on other parts of Minsk II, especially the holding of local elections in rebel areas under Ukrainian law. Indeed, Parubiy’s comment suggest that the Government is now looking to prioritise the elections as a first step and has also pushed for the creation of an armed OSCE observer mission to ensure the integrity of any vote.