Ukrainian authorities should initiate substantial talks on the country’s federalization and come to terms with the authorities of the self-proclaimed republics in the southeast of the country, Austrian President Heinz Fischer said.
The settlement of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine should first of all begin with "the observation of the ceasefire regime,” Fischer said in an interview with APA news agency.
"Secondly, there should be a rational dialogue aimed to ease the situation instead of escalating it,” the Austrian president said. "That is why I support those saying that we reached the stage, when the invention or introduction of sanctions in regard to Russia might slow down its development, but would definitely not get us closer to the solution of the conflict [in Ukraine].”
"Moreover, there should be initiated substantial talks on the reformation in the sphere of the authorities’ decentralization and federalization and they [the talks] should form an atmosphere in the southeast of the country meeting interests of both [conflicting] sides,” Fischer said.
Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in February coup, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories after the Crimean Peninsula declared independence on March 11 and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.
Demonstrators in Ukraine’s southeastern regions were demanding the country’s federalization. Kiev refused and instead launched what it dubbed "an antiterrorism operation” against pro-federalization activists. Russia said the operation was punitive. On May 11 the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.
According to the United Nations, more than 4,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled Ukraine’s southeast as a result of clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April, to regain control over the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics.
In early September, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics signed the Minsk Protocol, an agreement at halt the war in eastern Ukraine. Two weeks later, talks continued in Minsk and the sides adopted a memorandum which clarified the implementation of the protocol. In particular, the document stipulates pulling heavy weaponry 15 kilometers back on each side of the contact line and banning offensive operations. However, the sides have failed to implement the majority of the nine-point document.