Ukraine leader promises to give rebellious eastern regions autonomy but not independence

Ukraine’s president promised Wednesday to introduce a bill as early as next week that would offer greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the pro-Russia east, where separatists have been battling government troops for almost five months.

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president promised Wednesday to introduce a bill as early as next week that would offer greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the pro-Russia east, where separatists have been battling government troops for almost five months.

But President Petro Poroshenko said the regions would remain part of Ukraine and rejected the idea of federalization, something both Russia and the Russian-backed separatists are still pushing for even after a cease-fire that began Friday.

The cease-fire agreement, reached in Belarus, “envisages the restoration and preservation of Ukrainian sovereignty over the entire territory of Donbas, including the part that is temporarily under control of the rebels,” Poroshenko said during a televised Cabinet meeting. “Ukraine has made no concessions with regards to its territorial integrity.”

Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Russia of fueling the separatists with arms, expertise and even its own troops, something Russia denies. In late August, NATO estimated that more than 1,000 Russian troops were operating on Ukrainian soil, helping to turn the tide of the war in the rebels’ favour.

Poroshenko has struggled to paint the Minsk cease-fire agreement — reached as the rebels waged a major counteroffensive that pushed back the Ukrainian troops who had encircled them — as a victory rather than a defeat. Poroshenko says since the agreement, 70 per cent of the Russian troops in Ukraine had been withdrawn.

He also said 700 Ukrainian prisoners had been freed from rebel captivity and expressed hope that another 500 would be freed by the end of the week.

It was unclear, however, how many of those freed were soldiers rather than civilians. Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, told journalists Wednesday that only 20 servicemen had returned home so far. In Donetsk, a rebel spokesman said a planned exchange of 36 soldiers from each side had been put off until Thursday, blaming the government for the delay.

The president admitted that “implementing the cease-fire is very difficult” and accused separatists of “provoking” the Ukrainian troops.

The cease-fire has been violated numerous times. Ukraine says five servicemen have been killed and 33 injured since Friday. A volley of rocket fire could be heard in Donetsk late Tuesday, although the city council didn’t report any casualties overnight.

Poroshenko was vague on the specifics of his bill. But a previous peace plan laid out in June envisaged protection for the Russian language, joint patrols of federal and local police and letting local representatives give their approval for governors, who are appointed by the central government in Kyiv.

All of those concessions are minor in comparison to what the separatists want. At various times, they have demanded full independence from Kyiv or union with Russia, something that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ignored. But even their concessions to having Ukraine become federalized would require local control over security forces and elections for governors.

Poroshenko may have difficulty crafting a bill that is palatable to both the separatists and his parliament, which is gearing up for a parliamentary election on October 26. The Ukrainian public has been largely supportive of the war in the east against the separatists.

Just Posted

Patrons practice on a putting green as the Whitestone Bridge looms in the distance at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx borough of New York on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Former President Donald Trump has a rich history of fighting back when he’s down and making others pay, and that’s exactly how he intends to deal with New York City over its plans to fire his company from running the city golf course. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dump Trump? Kicking him off NYC golf course may not be easy

Trump Organization has been reeling after the Capitol riots

A photo illustration made December 14, 2012 in Montreal shows a computer in chains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Irish health system says it’s targeted in ransomware attack

Health care systems have been a target before

A woman wearing a mask talks on her phone near an exhibition depicting a rover in Mars in Beijing on Friday, May 14, 2021. China says its Mars probe and accompanying rover are to land on the red planet sometime between early Saturday morning and Wednesday Beijing time. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China Mars rover to land between Saturday and Wednesday

Only the United States has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Weary Palestinians are somberly marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas and Israel traded more rockets and airstrikes and Jewish-Arab violence raged across Israel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza

Israel called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

FILE - In this Friday March 6, 2020, file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry visits the Silverstone Circuit, in Towcester, England. In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast broadcast Thursday, May 13, 2021, Prince Harry compared his royal experience to being on “The Truman Show” and “living in a zoo.” (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Prince Harry thought about quitting royal life in his 20s

Feared his family would have to deal with the same spotlight that was on his late mother

Opinion
Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as… Continue reading

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer's first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital's medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Alberta physicians: Vaccines are our path forward

As the AMA representatives for Alberta’s family physicians, we were immensely relieved… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Most Read