Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Ukraine passes disputed bills

SELF-RULE:The two bills adopted by parliament build on a set of laws passed in September last year that give ‘special status’ to parts of Donetsk and Lugansk


A couple walk in front of a billboard calling on people to join the Ukrainian army that reads “Dignity, will and victory!” in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday adopted two bills enshrining greater autonomy for areas controlled by pro-Russian rebels, in line with a peace deal that continues to be marred by deadly skirmishes.

More than 260 lawmakers in the 450-seat Rada voted in favor of both bills introduced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, which had drawn fire both from the rebels and nationalists in Kiev.

“This law will give power to people whose hands are covered with the blood of Ukrainians,” former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, now a lawmaker, said during a heated debate in parliament.

The vote came amid fresh reports of casualties despite a truce in the fighting between government forces and the separatists, who seized control of parts of the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions last year after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Three soldiers were killed and five injured in the past 24 hours, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

Some of the casualties were caused by fire from the rebels, the others when a military vehicle drove over a landmine, spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters, refusing to give a more precise account of the incidents.

The government complains daily of continuing grenade, mortar and small arms fire from the rebels against its positions.

The rebels also accuse the government of ceasefire violations.

Despite the continuing clashes in a handful of flashpoints, the Feb. 12 truce has largely held.

With the violence, which has killed more than 6,000 people, now subsiding, the focus has shifted to the political elements of the peace deal, which require Kiev to surrender a degree of control over rebel-held areas.

The bills adopted by parliament build on a first set of laws dating from September last year that gave “special status” to parts of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The areas to be given a form of self-rule — including greater status for the Russian language — were listed for the first time in the texts adopted on Tuesday, which also set out conditions for the changes to take effect.

Kiev says the separatists must first hold local elections under Ukrainian law, with international monitoring.

“Ukraine’s position is that we will deal with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk, who will be elected legitimately and in accordance with Ukrainian law ... in polls that will be recognized by the entire civilized world,” Poroshenko said. “There will not be any other elections in Ukraine.”

The rebels had earlier rejected the conditions.

Reacting to the bills, Denis Pushilin, a senior rebel representative, said they were “a complete violation of the Minsk agreements.”

He said the rebels would outline their position in full shortly.

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