Thousands of demonstrators have rallied in Kyiv against President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s plan to hold local elections in eastern Ukrainian territory that is under the control of Russia-backed separatists.
Protesters at the rally denounced the plan as capitulation to Russia.
On October 1, Ukraine, Russia, and mediators Germany and France signed a tentative agreement with the separatists on guidelines for holding local elections in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy has described the deal as a necessary intermediate step ahead of organizing a summit with the leaders of Russia, France, and Germany to push for a peace deal.
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is under Kyiv’s control, about 300 people gathered outside of the regional state administration headquarters on October 6 to protest the election plan.
Participants of public organizations, activists, and representatives of political parties joined the all-Ukrainian protest rally in Kharkiv.
Their main demand is for an extraordinary session of the Kharkiv Regional Council in order to draw up a formal complaint against the plan — in particular, the introduction of a special status for the Donbas region and the removal of Ukrainian government troops from the current front lines.
Participants of the rally also announced the creation of what they call “Capitulation Headquarters,” which includes representatives of various political and public associations.
The five-year conflict between the separatists and Ukrainian government forces has killed more than 13,000 people.
Zelenskiy has vowed that elections would not be held in separatist-held areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions until all armed formations have left the area and Ukraine regains control over about 400 kilometers of borderland with Russia.
“There cannot be and will not be elections held at gunpoint,” Zelenskiy said on October 2. “There will be no capitulation.”
The regions would receive self-governing status once they hold elections that are deemed to be free and fair by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), according to what is known as the Steinmeier Formula, a component of an overall road map for attaining peace.
The Kremlin has said that it approves of the deal. On October 6, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said the signing of the Steinmeier Formula has increased the chances of organizing a summit that includes Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany.
Moscow had demanded that Kyiv agree to the Steinmeier Formula before it would consent to four-way peace talks with Ukraine.
The four countries have not met for peace talks since October 2016.