Ukraine Approves EU Pact And Temporary Self-Rule For Rebels
Ukraine's parliament has granted separatist-held areas temporary self-rule and given militants amnesty in a vote aimed at quelling a months-long insurgency that has threatened to permanently cleave.
The parliamentary move comes in tandem with another to expand economic ties with the European Union beginning in 2016. Last year, former President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a similar pact, leading to his ouster in November.
"No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, referring to the chaos of the last year in his country that followed the government's decision to turn away from Europe.
On the amnesty and autonomy vote, the BBC says:
"The measures are in line with the 5 September ceasefire agreement signed by President Petro Poroshenko.
"The amnesty affects rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but does not cover the shooting down of the MH17 plane."
The Moscow Times says of the vote that it "would grant self-rule to separatist-minded regions for a three-year period and allow them to "strengthen and deepen" relations with neighboring Russian regions."
NPR's Corey Flintoff says: "This seems to be a very big concession to the pro-Russian militants, although they say it doesn't go far enough. It would apparently limit the militants' jurisdiction to the areas of Luhansk and Donetsk that they now physically occupy. The militants say they want all of each province."
The deal, Corey adds, would be moot if it is rejected by the rebels, which seems likely.
On the issue of closer ties with the EU, he says:
"Russia wants to keep Ukraine in its orbit, and strongly opposed any association with the European Union.
"Under the deal, the EU will give Ukraine preferential trade status if Kiev undertakes a series of political and economic reforms.
"In order to address Russia's concerns, implementation of the deal will be delayed until the end of 2015."
The Associated Press writes:
"The ratification vote draws a line under the issue that last year sparked Ukraine's crisis, which resulted in the ousting of the president, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and a war with the Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 2,600 people.
"Earlier in the day, the parliament in closed session approved two bills on granting greater autonomy to the rebellious regions in the east as well as amnesty for many of those involved in the fighting. The bills are part of a tenuous peace process that saw a cease-fire called on Sept. 5 but that has been repeatedly violated."