Rebels in Eastern Ukraine declared on Tuesday that disputed local elections planned for October 18 and November 1 have been postponed until February 1, 2016, after a meeting held in the Belarussian capital Minsk which was attended by Representatives of Russia and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
According to the rebel-controlled DAN news agency, a joint statement by Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) representative Denis Pushilin and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) representative Vladislav Danego said, "[We] announce the consent of the Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics to postpone elections from 18 October and 1 November to next year."
The move came as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande met on Friday at a summit held in Paris to discuss the peace process.
After the meeting, attendees called on both sides to implement the Minsk peace plan, demanding the postponement of the disputed local elections meant to be held in October as they threatened the peace process.
Ukrainian authorities and Western countries had stated in the past that the elections planned to be held by the Rebels would be illegal as they would violate the Minsk peace deal which was signed in February, stressing that the voting must take place under Ukrainian law.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko immediately posted a statement on his Facebook page praising the decision to delay the elections.
"It opens the way for the return of Ukraine to the Donbass [east Ukraine] via elections conducted according to Ukrainian legislation, OSCE standards and of course without occupying forces," Poroshenko said.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the decision by saying "Russia welcomes a decision by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone disputed local elections until next February."
French President Francois Hollande, one of the key mediators between Russia and Ukraine, said the decision “will allow the continuation of the implementation of the Minsk accord,” while Federica Mogherini, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief, described the decision as a “fundamental step towards full implementation of the Minsk Agreement.”
The conflict broke out in April 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea, as the separatists allegedly backed by Russia took control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Eastern Ukraine.
At least 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while 2 million others have been forced to flee their home.