Deoccupation of Donbass

De-occupation of Donbass


The restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories is a key strategic task for Ukraine. 

Up to date facts

Today, there is the only modern platform for the solution format finding – "Minsk Agreement", signed on September 5, 2014 with the participation of international intermediaries.

This document, aimed at de-escalating armed conflict, provoked by military aggression of the Russian Federation, undoubtedly played a vital role at its own stage.

The negotiation process in the Normandy format and reached agreements contributed to the confrontation transformation from the military to the political and diplomatic level and the creation of the foundation for further legal settlement of the conflict.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, under the guise of paramilitary groups of the DPR and LPR of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Second Military Corps, is actually an 8th army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation.  It consists of the Russian Federation regular military servicemen, mercenaries and part of the local population. The personnel of these forces on the occupied territory is 35 thousand people. In their arsenal: 478 tanks, 848 armored fighting vehicles, 750 artillery systems and mortar-guns, 208 multiple-launch rocket systems, 363 anti-tank means, and 419 air defense systems. There are more tanks in the DPR / LPR army than in the UK! The separatists haven’t bought this weapon in the "Voentorg" shop seized in Donetsk, actually it has been relocated from the Russian side. 

This is the real state of affairs after four years of Minsk negotiations in Normandy format.

Today, the Minsk Protocol has largely exhausted potential laid on it and does not correspond to the agenda. The mechanisms, which are provided by it, unfortunately, haven’t allowed to solve the most important tasks of restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, de-occupation, termination of a military conflict and the death of people.

Moreover, the Minsk Agreements go beyond the legal framework of Ukraine and in the current format cannot be ratified by the Parliament of Ukraine. At the same time, they are used by the Russian Federation for political speculations at the international level.

The key disadvantage of the Minsk format is also the lack of a holistic vision of a solution to a conflict.


Obviously, it's time to develop a new, more effective strategy for resolving armed conflict and a detailed plan for the gradual restoration of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

It is necessary to define a new format that will be legitimate in terms of international law.

We propose a strategy for the de-occupation and reintegration of the occupied territories of Donbas based on the SMALL STEPS MECHANISM.

Preparation stage

Formation of a legal framework for the conflict settlement

Adoption of a legislative acts package, which will contribute to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Among them are two the most important laws:

Adoption of the Amnesty Law, which will be applied to the most of the people living in the occupied territory and participating in the conflict. Amnesty will not affect only those who have committed serious criminal or war crimes. Amnesty will not be applied to those who "have blood on their hands." In relation to them, the criminal proceedings should be opened, and the measure of restrained should be applied in accordance with the Ukrainian Law.

Adoption of the Law on collaborationists. It should be officially stated that, legally, every citizen of Ukraine is endowed with all civil rights in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine. Then, using provided by the Law mechanism, the status of this citizen should be determined: whether he/she is a victim of an occupation regime (a majority); or a participant who, because of the circumstances, has co-operated with the occupation regime; or an offender who killed our soldiers and participated in repressions against the civilian population. Accordingly, the Law should determine the degree of public response to the relevant status of each person.

This is a very complex issue that concerns the society's readiness to compromise, but it must be settled. Thus, a foundation will appear based on which the vast majority of the population on the temporarily occupied territories will legitimately return to the Ukrainian legal field and receive civil rights and access to public services. Only then it will become possible to conduct elections on these territories.

Communication strategy

A communication strategy within Ukraine that explains plan of our actions to people is extremely important! It is absolutely necessary to achieve an understanding of people and get the support of the Ukrainian civil society, since only the consolidation of the entire Ukrainian people and the transparency of the processes will allow the program to be fully implemented, including unpopular, but urgently needed measures.

International Peacekeeping Mission

Introduction of the International Peacekeeping Mission. Determination of the status and attraction order of the international regulatory forces, the international monitoring program, advisory and resource assistance.



Since it is impossible to find and bring into Ukraine between 20 and 40 thousand peacekeepers, which are necessary for the immediate de-occupation and reintegration of the entire temporarily occupied territory of the Donbas, it is proposed to start from a separate city or district (for example, Horlovka and / or Novoazovsky district).

It doesn’t matter who will win these elections, it is crucially important to keep the process going according to Ukrainian legislation and with the provision of free expression of the will. Even if people choose a candidate with frankly pro-Russian views, in the strategic perspective on the completion of conflict resolution processes, this issue will be balanced in the coming years.

The main thing is to form a transitional administration, which will start working with the central authorities within the framework of the procedures of reintegration and restoration on the basis of Ukrainian legislation.

First of all is the quality improving of citizens’ life on the de-occupied territory (health care, education, pensions and other types of social and household services, financial and banking sphere, job creation, employment of the population).

The battle zone in the Donbas with adjacent territories is one of the most contaminated by mines and explosives region in the world. According to the UN, the total area of mined lands in Ukraine is about 700,000 hectares.

The scene of fighting is always a zone of ecological disaster due to damage to soils, local flora and fauna, pollution of the territory. When it comes to Donbas, it is necessary additionally to take into account the specific features of the region in which there are numerous mines, enterprises (including chemicals), 1,200 sources of ionizing radiation. All this pose the threat of contamination of the drinking water sources, epidemics, emissions and explosions of methane and other harmful substances. Environmental disaster in Ukraine will be an environmental catastrophe for the whole of Europe!

According to the various estimates, the recovery of socio-economic stability in the region will require at least 10 years and between 20 and 30 billion US dollars.

Since in the predictable future Ukraine alone will not be able to compensate for the losses incurred as a result of military aggression, the special measures of economic support are required:

Strategic goals of AIM

To train, provide information to the policy makers and those who implement it locally; students and the public:

It should be taken into account that that returning people who have lived for a few years without toxic Russian propaganda on territory of Donbas, will facilitate the restoration of the local population's trust in the Ukrainian authorities and, to some extent, facilitate reintegration.

  1. A separate area (district) within the Donbas occupied territories should be selected and conformed, in which the opposite military formations are drawn off behind the specified line, thereby, a demilitarized security zone is created.
  2. The Special International Peacekeeping Mission and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine should take control of the said plot of territory and its borders.

    They enter the territory of a certain city or area

    Ukrainian border guards and peacekeepers jointly take control of the border

    In the rest of the territory, the rule of law and order are ensured by the National Police, the National Guard of Ukraine, together with "blue helmets" (UN peacekeepers). At the beginning of the first stage, it is possible to involve volunteers from the local population, representing local village and town councils.

    3. Within the borders of liberated territories, the forces of the Justice authorities conduct preparations for the election process followed by holding of the local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation.

    4. All the state institutions and law enforcement agencies are restored in the reintegrated territory.

    5. The process of reintegration begins.

    6. The humanitarian demining process in the previously occupied territory is conducted.

    7. The measures for the elimination of anthropogenic and environmental risks are assumed immediately.

    8. The urgent program of verification and restoring of the Ukrainian documents for all people who have lived these years in the occupied territory is launched.

    9. The verification degree of these people should be the highest, the Ukrainian passports should be issued only Ukrainian citizens according to a special mechanism.

    The legislative framework for the attraction mechanism of donors and investors and provision of control over the spending of funds (Board on Funds Distribution)

    The establishment of a Donbas rehabilitation agency (fund) with the participation of reputable international organizations, for example, based on the Institute of Peace (Executive Director - William Taylor, Former US Ambassador to Ukraine in 2006-2009)

    Help in the prevention, management and settlement of violent conflicts both between countries and within them.

    Providence of the post-conflict stability and development

    Increasing of the peace-building capacity, tools and intellectual capital worldwide

    Tax and other preferences for investors

    Perhaps the creation of free economic zones for the recovery of the Donbas economy.

    Creation of a special reserve fund with the participation of international organizations.

    10. Implementation of the measures on returning of internally displaced persons - internal migration of the population to areas which have been left because of the hostilities.

    11. The ability to participate in the elections to the central authorities of Ukraine will be restored for the people who residing in the formerly occupied territories, but not earlier than in 3-5 years.  

    The elections may be held exclusively on demilitarized territory. They cannot be held in the absence of the necessary safe environment and capable institutions.

    Rushing holding of elections can strengthen and restore conflict with renewed vigor.

    Angola, 1992 - the victory of one side in elections with a margin of 1-2% provoked a new conflict and led to a new civil war. The war ended only in the early 2000s.

    Elections may be held when the borders of the state are under its full control or control of the international observers, otherwise there will be no security guarantees on the day of voting.

    In Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Liberia, the elections have been held after establishing effective border control (2-5 years).

    In the case of Bosnia, under the pressure of Western governments, the OSCE authorized elections, ignoring the lack of conditions for democratic voting. As a result, after the national elections, the persons, who has a little interest in the full realization of the peace agreement have obtained the leading positions.

    The most adequate timeframe between the ceasefire and the election is 3 years after such ceasefire. If elections are held earlier than 2 years after the ceasefire in the case of young democracies, and less than in one year in the case of developed democracies, it leads to the to renewal of armed conflict.

    This time is necessary to ensure conditions for fair and free expression of the will and the formation of a moderate local forces which are able to create a counterbalance to the radicals.

    In addition, this time is required for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to previously occupied territories. The refugees and temporary displaced persons cannot be denied the right to participate in elections! It should be allowed them to return and settle in the place of their previous residence!

    Changing the electoral legislation requires the provision of at least 1 year to all participants in the electoral process (commissions, parties, voters, etc.) for familiarization with the new rules and the setting up of work.

    Conducting national elections to the Verkhovna Rada in the formerly occupied territories will not lead to a settlement of the conflict before the disarmament, demilitarization, restoration of border control, proper legislative and institutional provision of elections. The results of these elections will not be recognized by most conflict’s parties and that is why the entire process will be doomed to failure.


Expected results


The territorial integrity and peace in the eastern regions of Ukraine

Termination of further bloodshed and periodic escalation of armed "conflict - ripple"

De-occupation, reintegration of occupied territories and post-conflict construction

Encouraging the socio-economic development of territorial communities in previously occupied territories (improving the life quality of population through the strengthening of their capacity and social endurance, stimulating economic activity)

Minimizing the environmental risks and preventing anthropogenic disasters.

Temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions:

Improving the life quality to the nationwide Ukrainian standard of social security, protection and security, and access to all state services.

Real, and not situational and temporary cessation of hostilities, with corresponding positive consequences

The phased and non-conflictual nature of the reintegration process will contribute to the gradual reestablishment of mutual trust.

Residents of temporarily occupied territories, through democratic, honest and open elections, will independently choose the legal authorities in their regions. And later, they will be able to delegate their representatives to parliament and to participate in the presidential elections

Legally elected representatives of the temporarily occupied territories will have the right to participate in solving Donbass problems initially at the local, and then at the state level

 Guaranteed recovery of infrastructure and economy


Participants in the EU peace process (Germany, France, etc.) and the United States will be able to become real peacekeepers who have actively contributed to the peaceful settlement of armed conflict; this will prove the effectiveness of the institutional mechanisms of Euro-Atlantic cooperation

The EU will protect itself from the flow of refugees (including criminal elements), uncontrolled drug trafficking, and the illegal circulation of weapons from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. As a result, it will reduce of the potential threat of crime and terrorist threats


It may be able to get out of a stalemate, avoiding of the humiliating loss of prestige

It may receive additional arguments for easing of sanctions

It may get the ability not to meet the financial obligation for expenditures in support of the socio-economic infrastructure of the temporarily occupied territories

It will be relieved of the need to support one more enclave of separatism with the population which is surpasses Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia total population.

Annex 1

The estimation of anthropogenic and ecological risks in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions

  • On the territory of the Donbas there are over 1,200 sources of ionizing radiation on 65 objects. According to experts, due to military actions, uncontrollability of the functioning and maintenance of sources of ionizing radiation, there is a real radiation threat. The hostilities damaged the integrity of the radioactive waste storage facilities at the Donetsk Chemical Plant and the Donetsk Specialized Combine.
  • The concern "Stirol" belongs to potentially dangerous industries. In May 2014, it announced the production termination of ammonia, its derivatives and other products at the enterprise due to the tense situation in the region and the desire of the company "to exclude all risks for employees and residents of the region." However, the underground storage tanks of chemical waste production (and not only ammonia) remain there. This is about huge in area enterprises which are located on the delimitation line. In the case of ammonia entering the pipeline, falling into it foreign objects (fragments) or damage, it will cause the pollution of soil, ground water, atmosphere (due to evaporation), etc., that will harm the ecology of not only neighboring territories, but also of all Ukraine, as well as states bordering Ukraine.
  • The threat of mines flooding. As a result of the pumps stopping and the entry of groundwater into the mine, some of them have been flooded. According to experts, if water reaches the surface, the radiation level will exceed the permissible limit a thousand times.

In addition, mine water is heavily mineralized and contaminated with harmful substances. The poisonous mine water should be urgently pumped out, otherwise, it can mix with the ground fresh water and get into the rivers.

One more danger is mine water pushing out methane, which is accumulated in the basements and on the first floors of houses. One spark is enough to provoke a powerful explosion. There are not a few cases when the entire buildings fall into the voids formed by the mines. Possibly, the object of the critical infrastructure facility may also fall in such voids.

There is information that militants arranged mass graves in abandoned mines. As a result, with the melting of snow or the groundwater egress, an outbreak of hepatitis and other infections is possible.

  1. Near the Novgorodske village, there is a chemical waste storage facility of the phenol plant. It is located between the positions of the Ukrainian army and militants, which are located at a distance of 400 meters from each other. A. Hug, Deputy Head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, underlined that in the region it is necessary to establish a ceasefire regime and to disengage opposing forces of the conflict.
  2. In the area between Avdeyivka and Yasinuvate, there is a Donetsk Filtration Station, which provides water supply to settlements located on both sides of the collision line. During the armed conflict, the DFS repeatedly was on the line of fire, because of that its work had been stopped; the flow of water to cities and villages had been disrupted. According to experts, the continuation of hostilities near the DFS can provoke an ecological catastrophe.


Flabellate spread of Small Steps Mechanism

As a result of the Plan implementation on the liberated territory, the systematic work of the authorities is restored, the quality of people’s life is increased, security, law and order are ensured, all life processes are normalized. A normal peaceful life comes to war-torn cities and villages.

Then the project scales to neighboring areas. At the same time, each subsequent stage of de-occupation and reintegration will be easier, as local residents of liberated cities and villages will become "agents of influence," an example for the neighbors.

Thus, it can be expected that the process of de-occupation and reintegration will go with increasing intensity and will be more efficient and less resource-consuming than an instant operation in the entire temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.