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Yatsenyuk reaches out to pro-Russia secessionists in Ukraine

Ukraine's interim leaders have proposed constitutional changes to give the Russian language special status and increase regional autonomy. Secessionists vow to maintain their occupation of local government buildings.

On Friday, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged special status for the Russian language, as well as increased autonomy for regions, seeking to defuse secessionist protests.

"The Ukrainian government is ready for a socially comprehensive constitutional reform, that strengthens the power of the regions," Yatsenyuk said in a statement with interim President Oleksandr Turchynov.

On Thursday, Russia and Ukraine

agreed to a deal

brokered with the US and the EU to dissolve "all illegal military formations" and clear occupied public buildings. The government in Kyiv has continued a push to retake installations from the pro-Russia secessionists despite the agreement.

"The anti-terrorist operation is still going on and how long it continues depends on how long terrorists remain in our country," Ukrainian security services spokeswoman Marina Ostapenko said.

Secessionists have shown

few signs of giving in

either. Although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed the accord, said Denis Pushilin, a spokesman for the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, he "did not sign in our name."

"We agree that the buildings should be vacated, but first Yatsenyuk and Turchynov must leave the buildings that they are occupying illegally since their coup d'etat," Pushilin said.

'Costs and sanctions'

On Friday, US national security adviser Susan Rice said the United States would pay close attention to whether Russia had met obligations to use its influence to get separatists to disarm. She warned Russia that it would face tougher sanctions if it reneged on the deal or invaded Ukraine.

"Those costs and sanctions could include targeting very significant sectors of the Russian economy," Rice told reporters on Friday.

Russia's parliament has given President Vladimir Putin the green light to send troops into Ukraine if he deems it necessary. According to NATO estimates, Russia has also deployed some 40,000 troops in areas bordering Ukraine, raising fears of an invasion.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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