FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 2021
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Ukraine mulls free economic area in Donbas
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Oct 15 Ukraine may consider declaring a free economic area in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to encourage investment to revive territories crippled by the war, President Volodymyr Zelenskiys office reported Thursday.

To see if the idea gets support from the people, the authorities will run a plebiscite-like poll during local elections due on October 25, and will proceed with the plan if the idea gets the green light.

The idea is fundamental for the state's multifaceted peace plan. Having come to the polling station in local elections, Ukrainians will be able to independently answer the question of creating the free economic area in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Zelenskiys office said. This is an extremely important question, which will be able to provide the country with an opportunity to establish the truly effective reintegration model. This is about the concept of a regional economy, which 'stitches together' the region, makes it attractive for business, systematically restores infrastructure."

Some parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are currently controlled by Russia-backed rebels, so Zelenskiys plan would first cover the regions that are controlled by Kyiv. It would later expand to include other territories provided a sustainable peace solution is reached.

"These areas are still experiencing a significant effect from the war unfolding nearby. The region is becoming more depressed, which forces people to leave it and their homes. Therefore, it is necessary to create new motivation for the population, new jobs, new promising businesses and introduce special tools for attracting investors to Donbas, and motivating people and businesses to stay in this territory," Zelenskiys office said.

"We proceed precisely from the motivation that the creation of special economic conditions in Donbas, in the free part, will significantly influence the pace and concept of effective reintegration. Surely, if Ukrainians support this," the office said.

The accelerated economic development of the state-controlled territory of Donbas can be a clear argument for absolutely all residents of the temporarily occupied territory to choose Ukraine.

"We realize that there is still a hostile propaganda influence on a part of our people that remains under temporary occupation and lives near the demarcation line. In addition, until a complete de-occupation has been carried out, which we set as a key goal in the negotiations on Donbas in all formats, the risk of escalation remains. Accordingly, attracting leading companies to Donbas, fueling economic development through major partnership programs can also become a tool for dismantling any negative impact of the occupying force," the office said.

"Therefore, the solution to the question of how effectively we should restore Donbas will depend on the participation of citizens in the polls on October 25. We perceive that this format of voting by people on issues of national importance cannot have direct legal implications. However, its political weight will be such that in the environment politicians will not be able to ignore the choice of the people. What this choice will be depends on each participant in the vote," the office said. (tl/ez)

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