20 February 2019
President Petro Poroshenko holds a landmark association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Photo: Reuters
President Petro Poroshenko holds a landmark association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Photo: Reuters

Lawmakers denounce Ukraine amnesty for rebels

Opposition lawmakers are accusing Ukraine of selling out to separatists after parliament offered self-rule to parts of two eastern regions and amnesty to pro-Russian rebels, according to BBC News.  

Parliament passed a law giving autonomy to Donetsk and Luhansk regions and amnesty to separatists in line with a Sept. 5 ceasefire agreement.

But some lawmakers condemned the move as capitulation and a sell-out of Ukraine in what they see as a proxy war with Russia.

Moscow annexed the Ukrainian port of Crimea in March.

President Petro Poroshenko said the legislation, which will be in effect for three years, guarantees the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” of Ukraine while paving the way for decentralisation.

The amnesty covers separatist rebels but not the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July which western leaders believe was carried out with a Russian missile, a charge the rebels and the Kremlin deny.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian and European parliaments also voted to ratify a major association agreement with the European Union to bring the ex-Soviet republic closer to the EU. 

Separatists holding government buildings are now supposed to leave them, hand over captured Ukrainian soldiers and other prisoners and surrender their weapons.

Rebels accused of other grave crimes are not covered by the new amnesty.

“A capitulation was announced today in this war,” Oleh Tiagnybok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, was quoted as saying by the Ukrainska Pravda website.

Andriy Shevchenko, an MP in the Batkivshchyna party led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said he was “ashamed of this parliament”.

He said the law was voted in “a secret regime”, violating normal parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile, Andrei Purgin, a rebel leader in Donetsk, told AFP news agency that the eastern region “no longer has anything to do with Ukraine”.

“Ukraine is free to adopt any law it wants. But we are not planning any federalism with Ukraine.”

The rebels are demanding full independence and plan to create a new state called “Novorossiya”, something Russian President Vladimir Putin has mentioned in speeches.

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