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Ukraine’s eastern regions ‘could be left to rot’ after Russia broadside

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Ukraine’s eastern regions ‘could be left to rot’ after Russia broadside

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Ukraine’s eastern regions could be left to rot after MPs tried to pass responsibility for them onto Russia, it’s been claimed.

A law was passed yesterday defining areas seized by pro-Russian separatists in the east as being "temporarily occupied" by Russia.

The legislation also accused Russia of being an "aggressor country", a move Moscow slammed as being a precursor to a fresh war.

But Mathieu Boulegue, an expert on Ukraine from international affairs think tank Chatham House, says while the move will destabilise the region, neither Moscow or Kyiv will have the appetite for a large-scale conflict.

He claimed the law – by saying the regions were temporarily occupied by Russia – was an attempt to hand the burden for them over to Russia.

“Both states could wash their hands of responsibility [of the eastern regions],” said Boulegue, adding this could see eastern Donetsk and Luhansk being left to rot.

“No-one wants to take charge of these territories. These are very cumbersome territories and they will need to be pacified militarily and they will need to be reintegrated in terms of their mentality and economic development.

“There is a wider understanding between Moscow and Kiev that these territories have become cumbersome and some sort of dead weight. Nobody really wants to re-integrate them.

“Russia doesn’t want to reintegrate them into the Russian federation and Kyiv has a hard time working out what to do with them because they cost a lot of money.

“So in that sense this is basically freezing off the future of these territories by calling Russia an occupier.”

More than 10,000 people have died in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions since the conflict started in 2014.

It came just a month after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Russia, accused by Kyiv and the West of supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine, was a signatory to the Minsk peace accords in early 2015, which saw a ceasefire agreed and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontlines.

Sergey Mikheyev, director general of the Institute for Caspian Cooperation, said Ukraine’s move puts Minsk at risk.

He told Vestnik Kavkaza news agency: “The law restricts any opportunities for normalising relations as much as possible and raises the degree of tension.

“If Ukraine recognised Russia as an aggressor, defined Donbass as the occupied territory and removed the priority of the Minsk agreements, it dealt a blow to the Minsk settlement process, which aggravates the current state of affairs.”