Deoccupied and occupied. How the Government works with liberated territories and what is allowed on the temporarily occupied territories

01 February 2023
Deoccupied and occupied. How the Government works with liberated territories and what is allowed on the temporarily occupied territories
Home > Analysis > Deoccupied and occupied. How the Government works with liberated territories and what is allowed on the temporarily occupied territories

Text republished from Dzerkalo Tyzhnia

The Prime Minister and ministers have the authority to address some of the most pressing issues in the time of war. In particular, what the state policy is regarding the occupied and deoccupied territories, people who live there or have been forced to flee. Nine months is enough time to not only prepare solutions but also to start implementing them. 

In this article, we analyzed the decisions and actions of the Cabinet of Ministers during the invasion, which is responsible for shaping the state policy regarding people and territories affected by the war. 

Looking for security and support 

After the liberation of part of the Ukrainian territories in the fall, the Ukrainian authorities faced a number of new humanitarian and economic challenges. In the long term — the problem of rebuilding the affected communities, in the short term — the safe evacuation of residents, which was impossible during the occupation. 

Back in October, the head of Mykolaiv Oblast Military Administration Vitalii Kim stated that lists of those willing to evacuate are already being drawn up in the deoccupied towns and villages of the region. Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the state takes responsibility for the relocation, accommodation, and medical care of the displaced persons. The Ministry of Reintegration promised to provide food, hygienic products, warm clothes, and other basic necessities for those who decided to stay. From November 1, residents of the deoccupied territories will have the right to the same financial assistance as internally displaced persons from the occupied territories. It is about three thousand hryvnias per month for children and persons with disabilities and two thousand hryvnias for others. For this purpose, within seven days after the deoccupation, the executive committees of local councils provided regional military administrations with data on how many people lived on the liberated territories at the time of the deoccupation and calculated the required amount of funding. 

Also, the Cabinet simplified the requirements for citizens who left the occupied territories via third countries and now want to return to Ukraine. From now on, displaced persons have the opportunity to return to Ukraine without a passport, only with a birth certificate. This is important for people who left the occupied territories under extreme conditions and did not have time or possibility to collect all the documents. 

How to restore the deoccupied territories? 

Management of the deoccupied territories is another important and difficult process that the Ukrainian authorities must launch. On October 14, the Cabinet adopted a resolution to start developing and discussing programs for the comprehensive restoration of regions and territorial communities. 

Working groups that include representatives of local councils, their executive bodies, and representatives of communal enterprises are supposed to decide how exactly a region or a community should be restored. Comprehensive restoration programs should include social and economic planning, territorial planning, infrastructure and environmental issues, urban planning. They should be based on information collected about the destruction, demographic situation, and the state of local economies. 

However, the big question is not only when the development of these programs will begin, but also what will be the quality of the whole process because the Cabinet’s approach to the issue is formal. For example, the participation of specialists in the designing of programs for the restoration of the territories is not mandatory. Regional state administrations and local councils will decide whether they want to include them or not. Citizens can only submit proposals to published projects but cannot join working groups. 

But the most important thing is that the government has not said a single word about what will happen next with the programs for the restoration of the territories. Maybe they will be taken into account when allocating funds for restoration or maybe they will remain just an educational exercise for communities in drafting programs. 

What to do with collaborators? 

At the beginning of March 2022, MPs criminalized collaborationism: public denial of aggression against Ukraine, voluntary service at positions in illegal authorities, propaganda of aggression in educational establishments, transfer of resources to occupiers, etc. The law enforcement officers at once started to work. 

As of November, the SSU has found more than 700 collaborators, the National Police has opened more than 500 criminal cases, and the SBI — almost 150. In the register of court decisions, you can already find more than 100 verdicts by trial courts. The media report about arrests of collaborators almost daily. For example, one person was arrested for the facilitation of the ruble zone in Kherson oblast, another one — for the organization of the blackout in Donetsk oblast. 

But this urgent and important initiative to punish traitors and collaborators has some drawbacks. 

First, the definition of collaborationism actually overlaps with definitions of treason and encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and thereby significantly complicates the work of law enforcement agencies. Investigators and prosecutors are now spending a lot of time on verbalism trying to distinguish who should be punished for treason and who should be punished for collaborationism. 

Some MPs also understand this. In the draft bill correcting the flaws of the current regulation, they indicate that the introduction of this new type of crime has made it much more difficult to distinguish between the crimes of treason, collaborationism, aiding the aggressor state, and justifying Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. 

Second, even those who do not directly cooperate with the occupiers or do so under coercion or who work at critical infrastructure objects necessary for the survival of people on temporarily occupied territories are punished for collaborationism. Entrepreneurs, doctors, firefighters, teachers, energy workers, and others who support normal life in occupied communities face criminal charges. Instructions and recommendations on how to behave in order to not be punished for collaborationism have already appeared online. 

In response to this, the Ministry of Reintegration developed two draft bills that should protect certain types of activities from accusations of collaborationism. These documents are the result of the joint work of representatives of the government, businesses, legal experts, and NGOs. In early August, the Cabinet submitted both documents to the Verkhovna Rada. 

In the first document, it is proposed to punish only voluntary entrepreneurship in cooperation with the aggressor or the bodies of the occupation authorities. In the second, government officials provide some definitions of what businesses can do on the temporarily occupied territories to avoid being accused of collaborationism. In particular: 

  • delivery and distribution of pensions and financial assistance 
  • medical, social, funeral, banking (with some restrictions), communal, and transportation services 
  • educational activities without the propaganda of the aggression, approval of the occupation administration, or implementation of the curricula by the aggressor 
  • food retail and public catering 
  • services in electronic communications and radio, postal services 
  • farming 

However, this list is too large. As for banking services and the delivery of pensions to the occupied territories, the idea is totally absurd. If implemented, it will allow the occupiers to stabilize the economic situation, circumvent sanctions, and have an easy time maintaining the temporarily controlled territories. According to international humanitarian law, the aggressor is exclusively responsible for the occupied territories, and helping the enemy is nonsense. 

Human rights activists point out that the bill proposed by the Cabinet does not remove the key defects of the current regulation: legal uncertainty, ambiguous and vague definitions. 

Since August, these draft bills have been kept in the parliament without prospects for being adopted. However, with each settlement liberated from the occupiers, this question becomes more and more urgent. Sooner or later, the MPs and the Cabinet will have to amend the legislation to punish only real traitors and not doctors or firefighters. 

Is it allowed to work on the occupied territories? 

The large-scale invasion presented the authorities with yet another difficult question to which there is no simple answer: how should the authorities act on the temporarily occupied territories? How can they work under such conditions? How to balance the interests of the state and citizens on the temporarily occupied territories? 

The draft bill by the Ministry of Reintegration, which the Cabinet submitted to the Parliament in August, addresses this challenge. The officials proposed that on the temporarily occupied territories, government bodies and local governments could work only on the following: 

  • protection of human rights and freedoms, investigative and pre-trial investigative activities 
  • medical care, maintaining firefighting service, the burial of the dead 
  • public utilities 
  • protection of cultural values and protection of the nature reserve fund 
  • restoration of territorial integrity. 

It will be difficult to implement, though. Government bodies and local governments of Ukraine cannot operate on the occupied territories. That is why international humanitarian law obliges the occupiers to maintain order on the temporarily occupied territories and care for the population there. 

Moreover, the draft bill can facilitate the interaction between the occupation administrations and representatives of the official authorities of Ukraine, thus legalizing the occupation, and helping the enemy to longer control the seized territories. In its current version, the initiative threatens national security and goes against the interests of Ukraine. 

MPs probably also understand this. Since August 10, nothing was done to push the bill forward. Still, the risk that sooner or later the Parliament will start considering it remains. 


The large-scale invasion presented the country with many challenges that have to be resolved as soon as possible. The Cabinet and MPs responded to most of them, but not always successfully. 

The introduction of the definition of collaborationism was supposed to prevent the enemy’s agents from working in Ukraine. But in practice, this can lead to the imprisonment of those people who tries to maintain basic services in the occupied cities. The government’s attempt to fix the situation for now only complicates the problem. 

Evacuation, social security, and assistance to residents of the deoccupied territories is certainly the right decision by the Cabinet. But the government’s initiative regarding the work of government bodies, local governments, and businesses on the occupied territories is questionable, if not harmful. In its current version, the draft bill threatens national security.