Deadly Protest After Ukraine Vote | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Deadly Protest After Ukraine Vote

Posted: Sep 1, 2015 at 9:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ukraine’s parliament voted on Monday for constitutional changes to give separatist-minded eastern regions a special status – but divisions in the pro-Western camp and violent street protests suggested the changes would face a rougher ride to become law.

One National Guard member has been killed and about 100 injured in violent protest outside Ukraine’s parliament, the interior ministry said when a grenade was lobbed from a crowd of nationalists demonstrating against the “decentralisation” draft law that President Petro Poroshenko and his government are pushing as part of a blueprint to end separatist rebellion in the east.

At a boisterous session, with many deputies shouting “shame” and rhythmically beating parliamentary benches, a total of 265 deputies voted in favor of the first reading of the bill, 39 more than that required to pass.

But many coalition allies, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, spoke against it and it is open to question whether Poroshenko will be able to whip up the necessary 300 votes for it to get through a second and final reading later this year.

Approval of legislation for special status for parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are largely controlled by Russian-backed separatists, is a key element of a peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, in February.

Though a ceasefire is under pressure from sporadic shelling and shooting which government troops and rebels blame on each other, Western governments see the deal as holding out the best possible prospects for peace and are urging Ukraine to abide by the letter of the Minsk agreement.

“This (the bill) will give our Western partners the ability to put pressure on Russia to fulfill three basic points of the Minsk agreement – the ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine and re-establishment of control over the border,” said Maksim Burbak of Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s Popular Front party.

“We have to support the international ‘anti-Putin’ coalition,” said Yuri Lutsenko of the Poroshenko bloc, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But opponents of the bill said it played into Russia’s hands and would lead ultimately to Ukraine losing control over the Donbass – the name given to the industrialised east, swathes of which are controlled by separatists now.

“We believe that these anti-Ukrainian changes to the Constitution … are a road to realisation of Putin’s plan for destroying Ukraine,” said Radical party leader Oleh Lyashko.

“This is not the road to peace but to decentralization. This is a diametrically opposed process which forces us to lose territory,” said Tymoshenko.