Ukraine’s parliament ratifies pact to deepen EU ties

Ukraine’s parliament yesterday ratified an agreement to deepen economic and political ties with the EU and passed legislation to grant autonomy to the rebellious east as part of a peace deal.

Ukraine’s parliament ratifies pact to deepen EU ties

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 3,000 people.

The ratification vote in Kiev, synchronised with the European Parliament by a video link, was met with a standing ovation, and members of parliament leapt to their feet to sing the national anthem.

In a speech to legislators, Petro Poroshenko, the president, called the vote a “first but very decisive step” towards bringing Ukraine fully into the EU.

Poroshenko also said that those who died during the protests and during fighting in the east “gave up their lives so that we could take a dignified place among the European family”.

In Brussels, EU politicians overwhelmingly ratified the agreement. “The message this sends could not be clearer: The European Parliament supports Ukraine in its European vocation,” parliament president Martin Schulz said.

“The European Parliament will continue defending a united and sovereign Ukraine.”

In stark contrast to that fanfare, parliament went behind closed doors earlier in the day to approve two bills granting greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the east, as well as amnesty for many of those involved in the fighting.

One bill calls for three years of self-rule in parts of the war-torn east and for local elections in November. It grants concessions that were not offered in a presidential peace plan that was put forward in June.

A separate bill called for amnesty for those involved in the eastern conflict, although the law does not cover those who are suspected or charged with crimes including murder, sabotage, rape, kidnapping, and terrorism. The law does not grant amnesty to those who have attempted to kill Ukrainian law enforcement officials and servicemen.

The two bills are part of a peace agreement that called for the implementation of a ceasefire in the region on September 5.

Though much lauded by the Ukrainian leadership, the ceasefire has been riddled by violations from the start. Yesterday, the city council in Donetsk said three people died and five were wounded in shelling overnight.

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