Ukraine rebels offer to postpone local vote: separatist website

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2015 5:24 AM

KIEV (Reuters) - Pro-Russian rebels proposed on Tuesday postponing the date of local elections in separatist parts of east Ukraine to February 2016 in an effort to lift peacemaking out of "stalemate," according to a statement posted on separatist website LITs.

Under terms of the much-violated Minsk peace agreement, reached in February, local elections were meant to be held in the separatist regions in tandem with the rest of the former Soviet republic this autumn. But the Ukrainian government has since said they cannot take place due to security and monitoring concerns.

The separatists, who have unilaterally declared their own mini-republics, instead scheduled their own ballot for October and November, angering Kiev which said it would not recognize the results.

Vladislav Deinego, the separatist envoy to peace talks, said that to "get the process out of stalemate" rebel officials were prepared to push back the date of elections to Feb. 21.

The statement was posted online before a meeting between representatives of the separatists, Ukraine and Russia, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

On Monday, President Petro Poroshenko criticized separatist plans for independent local balloting in October and November. "These aren't elections, they're not free, they will not meet the standards of the OSCE. This directly and severely contradicts the Minsk agreements," he said.

It was not clear from Deinego's statement whether the new elections proposed by the separatists would be carried out under Ukrainian supervision. Kiev says this is necessary for them to be valid.

In the past, Ukrainian and rebel forces have blamed each other for repeated ceasefire breaches but both sides are now broadly respecting a truce that took effect on Sept. 1, according to OSCE monitors.

(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich)