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Tank in Kyiv
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Pilipey

Ukraine and rebels show positive signs as truce holds

September 1, 2015

The long-violated Minsk agreement between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists appears to be holding as the new school year begins. Yesterday Ukraine's capital was hit by deadly riots over a "decentralization" bill.


A Kyiv army spokesman said on Tuesday that both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists were showing signs of complying with the latest attempt to enforce the Minsk peace deal agreed in February in Belarus.

"As of 12 p.m. there were no reports of violations by the illegal armed groups. Now the situation is calm," spokesman Oleksander Motuzyanyk said, adding that no soldiers had been killed or wounded during the last 24 hours.

The two sides said last week that they would aim to establish peace in Ukraine's eastern region by September 1 and "jointly verify the fulfilment of this initiative."

NATO increases presence

Despite reports of the ceasefire holding on Tuesday, Lithuania's defense ministry said NATO had activated command units in six central and eastern European member states.

"NATO today officially activated NATO force integration units in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania," defense ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaite told AFP news agency.

"It is a clear message both to allies and, of course, opponents who have recently increased the tensions," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, without directly naming Russia.

Deadly riots in Ukraine's capital

Kyiv was recovering on Tuesday, however, a day after deadly riots broke out in front of Ukraine's parliament building. Hundreds of protesters, many of whom belonged to a Ukrainian nationalist party known as Svoboda, had taken to the streets after 265 members of Ukraine's 450-seat parliament approved constitutional changes in a preliminary vote.

The controversial "decentralization" bill is part of Kyiv's side of the bargain to implement February's Minsk peace accord and would grant greater autonomy to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are mostly controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The proposed legislation has been condemned by critics, however, as "anti-Ukrainian" and "pro-Vladimir Putin."

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday that three people had now died after the clashes between protesters and Ukrainian police.

All the victims were members of Ukraine's National Guard, two of whom died as the result of an explosion caused by a grenade. The third died early on Tuesday afternoon after lying in a coma for a day. At least another 140 people were also hospitalized.

Avakov said about 30 protesters were detained during the riots, 18 of whom remained in custody on Tuesday.

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

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