Poroshenko Urges Special Status for Separatist East Ukraine
August 23, 2015
by VOA News
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called upon his coalition allies in the country to support plans for a constitutional change that he hopes would end the separatist conflict raging in the east.
Poroshenko used a flag-raising ceremony in Kyiv on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day to call on all political parties to overcome their doubts and vote in favor of constitutional amendments that would grant special status to separatist-minded parts of eastern Ukraine.
"My direct call to all political forces, in the first instance to those who are together in the parliamentary coalition, is to come together now for the sake of Ukraine," he said.
The proposed amendments, which have split Ukraine lawmakers, are scheduled to receive a first vote in parliament on August 31. The proposal would need 226 votes to garner a second reading.
Several coalition allies are under pressure -- particularly from militant paramilitary groups that oppose giving any ground to Russian-backed separatists.
Security is tight in Kyiv for Monday's Independence Day festivities, which include a march by soldiers serving on the front line.
Poroshenko is also to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to discuss measures taken since a cease-fire agreement was reached in Minsk, Belarus, earlier this year.
More than 6,500 people, including hundreds of civilians, have been killed in the conflict.
Pro-Russian rebels took up arms in the east after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 in response to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow president in Kyiv by street protests a month earlier.
While both sides have withdrawn large numbers of heavy weapons from the conflict zone, in line with the Minsk agreement, sporadic clashes still occur.
In the past 24 hours, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and four others were wounded in fighting west of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, a Kyiv military spokesman said Sunday.
Both sides regularly blame each other for the cease-fire violations.
Kyiv and Western governments, which have imposed sanctions on Russia, say there is irrefutable evidence of Russian involvement in the separatist resistance. Moscow denies it is providing men or arms.
RFE/RL contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from Reuters.
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