Poroshenko lifts objections to referendum on eastern regions

imgUkrainian president Petro Poroshenko has publicly lifted his objections to a referendum that could give more powers to the restive regions engulfed in more than a year of warfare.
The conflict between Russia-backed rebels and government troops in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 6,000 lives. When it began, protesters in the east demanded a vote on giving their regions more autonomy. Such calls were rejected by the Ukrainian government at the time.
But Poroshenko on Monday met a parliamentary commission that is drafting amendments to the country’s main law and said in a televised meeting that if the commission decides a referendum is necessary, he would not stand in the way.
“I’m ready to launch a referendum on the issue of state governance if you decide it is necessary,” he said.
Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was the support base for Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in February last year after months of protests. Several months into the fighting, however, pro-Russia rebels said they no longer wanted autonomy, but rather an independent state.
Hostilities have subsided in the region after the parties agreed in February to a cease-fire deal brokered by Western leaders in Minsk, Belarus.
Russia-backed separatists on Monday balked at the idea of a referendum as offering too little.

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