Russia welcomes special status for eastern Ukrainian regions

Reuters , Wednesday 17 Sep 2014

Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday welcomed as a "step in the right direction" a Ukrainian parliament decision to grant special status to two regions pro-Russian separatists want to split off from Kiev.

On Wednesday, Ukraine passed laws granting temporary and limited self-rule to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in an attempt to blunt the independence drive of separatist fighters there.

"We expect that all provisions of the law will be responsibly implemented," the ministry also said in a statement.

"It's clear that attempts... to revoke it or change its essence would again throw the situation towards a confrontation, undermine efforts to normalise the situation by international community and sensible politicians in the country."

Moscow says it will protect the rights of the Russian-speaking population in east Ukraine but denies sending arms to the rebels fighting Kiev troops there.

Unconvinced, the West has imposed sanctions on Russia, which it accuses of fanning unrest in the east after Moscow annexed Crimea from Kiev in March.

Moscow has also opposed Kiev's drive to integrate with the West, one of the key points of contention in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has dragged ties between the Kremlin and the West to new post-Cold War lows.

In a concession to Russia, the European Union and Ukraine agreed on Friday to delay the implementation of their free-trade pact until the end of next year.

"We expect that the forthcoming period will be used to settle in a legally binding way all Russian concerns by correcting the (EU-Ukraine) association agreement to safeguard bilateral economic relations (between Kiev and Moscow)," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in another statement on Wednesday.

It added Moscow hoped that agreement on delaying the implementation of the EU-Ukraine trade pact would be honoured, adding it reserved the right to retaliate if it was not.

RIA news agency later on Wednesday quoted the Ukrainian government's envoy for European integration, Valery Pyatnitsky, as saying in Kiev that Russia's concerns over possible violations were "groundless".

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