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Lawmakers still unable to agree on memorandum on settlement in eastern Ukraine

April 24, 2014, 6:25 UTC+3 KIEV
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KIEV, April 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine's parliament will make a new attempt on Thursday to coordinate the memorandum on settling the situation in the east of the country, along with the bill to amnesty participants in the protests that swept across the eastern regions.

Though the documents are not formally on the Thursday agenda, lawmakers said they would be added as soon as a consensus was reached between the opposition /the Party of Regions and the Communists/ and the coalition comprising the Batkivshchina, UDAR, and Svoboda factions and two groups of lawmakers.

On Wednesday, the heads of the factions failed to reach an accord on the bill on amnesty for protesters in the east of the country. At present, six alternative documents are offered for review in parliament. The cabinet submitted its own bill on inadmissibility of prosecution for the events during mass actions of civil confrontation that began on February 22, 2014.

The Party of Regions, in the bill of its own, called for amnestying all those who had captured administrative buildings in eastern regions, as the new authorities had amnestied the protesters on Kiev's Independence Square.

However, the coalition which called the Maidan supporters "patriots" denounced protesters in the east as "separatists." It said it would object to exempting from punishment all the participants in the protests in the Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov regions.

Nor can the parliamentary factions come to terms on the memorandum on settling the situation in the east. Acting head of Batkivshchina Sergei Sobolev said that the Party of Regions and the Communists had snubbed with the document drawn by the coalition. "At present, there is actually no support from the Party of Regions or the Communists for the draft of the memorandum of mutual understanding, brought forward by speaker of Verkhovnaya Rada /parliament/ and the heads of the factions of the parliamentary majority," Sobolev said.

Speaker Alexander Turchinov's document contains several provisions which the opposition flatly rejects. The document does not envision federalization, broader powers for regions, official status for other languages in certain regions and amendments to the Constitution.

Last week, the coalition tried to put Turchinov's document on the agenda, but it failed short of the required 226 votes. Lawmakers came close to "the format of passing the memorandum," but had not reached a consensus yet, the speaker said in comments on the situation.

The Party of Regions drew its own version of the memorandum. Together with the Communists, it calls for "fixing in the Constitution the status of Russian as the second state language." They also offered to immediately adopt the laws on reform of local self rule and regional governance. Specifically, the document proposes replacing regional and district state administrations with executive committees of regional and district councils and delegating executive powers to them.

The Party of regions also insists on direct elections of chairpersons of regional councils by regional communities in an open vote by residents, and on providing necessary funding to regions through the establishment of fair distribution of budget revenue.

Local authorities in the east of the country support these demands. For example, deputies of the Kharkov Town Council asked Ukrainian lawmakers to pass a law on local referenda to realize people's right to the expression of will. "We, the legitimately elected representatives of Kharkov, support Kharkov residents' rights to the expression of their views and peaceful actions," the deputies said in a statement.

They also said they were at one with regional residents' position voiced during an opinion pool in Kharkov in 2002 on using Russian together with the state language in all spheres of public life. Kharkov Town Council also asked the parliament to "take measures aimed at restoring citizens' constitutional rights to information, and ensure the resumption of broadcasting of Russian television channels."

Kiev-appointed chairman of the Donetsk region state administration /OGA/ Sergei Taruta called for all-Ukrainian referendum on the status of the Russian language and decentralisation of Ukraine.

"People want the referendum and should be given the opportunity to hold it. I suggest setting the date for May 25, the day of Ukrainian presidential election," Taruta said.

He believes it is necessary to begin to formulate questions for the referendum as soon as possible, in order to secure accord between all the interested parties. His initiative was supported by mayors, district councils and state administrations of the Donetsk region.

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