KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposed limited self-rule for his country's eastern territory, a major concession to end the rebellion by pro-Russian separatists.
He presented a 1,200-page peace plan to Parliament Tuesday, which includes self-governance status for the eastern provinces for three years, general amnesty, the right to speak Russian in state institutions and an independent law enforcement establishment. Ukrainian and European Union leaders intend to sign the agreement Tuesday. It essentially codifies a concession of power to the rebel forces, but establishes a framework for peace between Ukrainian military forces and the separatists.
Ukraine is preparing to join the European Union. While the agreement gives Russia leverage in eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko defended it, saying it would keep rebel-held territories within Ukraine and prevent any attempt at independence. Some separatist leaders, intending to create a "New Russia" from the region, offered skeptical views of Poroshenko's concessions.
"We will take care of our land by ourselves," said Alexander Zakharchenko, self-declared prime minister of the separatists' Donetsk People's Republic. "On our land, it will be our people and our laws. There have been no discussions about staying within the territory of Ukraine," he told the Ukrainian news website Vesti.
The diplomatic change of direction came as clashes continued, despite a fragile cease-fire, near the airport in Donetsk, and an exchange of 73 prisoners from each side. The conflict has cost nearly 3,000 lives since it began in April.