Ukrainian separatists proclaim new state called Malorossiya

Separatists in eastern Ukraine have proclaimed a new state that aspires to include not only the areas they control but also the rest of the country.

The surprise announcement in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk casts further doubt on the 2015 ceasefire deal that was supposed to stop fighting in Ukraine's industrial heartland and bring those areas back into Kiev's fold while granting them wide autonomy.

More than 10,000 people have died in fighting after Russia-backed rebels took control of parts of Ukraine's east in April 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

The rebels originally sought to join Russia but the Kremlin stopped short of annexing the whole area or publicising its military support for the rebels.

The separatist Donetsk News Agency quoted local leader Alexander Zakharchenko as saying that the rebels in Donetsk, Luhansk and other Ukrainian regions would form a state called Malorossiya.

Mr Zakharchenko said they are drawing up a constitution that will be put up to a popular vote.

"We believe that the Ukrainian state as it was cannot be restored," he said in remarks carried by the Tass news agency.

"We, representatives of the regions of the former Ukraine, excluding Crimea, proclaim the creation of a new state which is a successor to Ukraine."

Although separatists in the east do have sympathisers in other Ukrainian regions, they have not attempted to capture territories there, and they have no political representation.

France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia worked out an agreement in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015 which laid out a road map for ending the conflict between government troops and separatists.

The rebels and the Ukrainian government agreed that the separatists would return the control of the territories they had captured to Kiev while Ukraine would allow a local election there and grant wide autonomy to the region.

While the deal helped to reduce the intensity of fighting, none of the political components have been implemented.

AP


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