Ukraine gov't pledges reforms to settle eastern tension

PM Yatsenyuk announces a draft bill prepared to grant amnesty to any protesters who give up their weapons

PM Yatsenyuk announces a draft bill prepared to grant amnesty to any protesters who give up their weapons

KIEV, Ukraine - Leaders of Ukraine’s interim government on Friday appealed for national unity and pledged a special status for the Russian language, as the government announced it would halt all anti-terror operations in the east during Easter.

In a joint televised address on Ukrainian parliament’s official channel, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the government planned for a constitutional reform package that includes giving more powers to regional administrations.

Yatsenyuk said another draft law had also been prepared to grant amnesty to any protesters who give up their weapons.

He called on all political parties to back the amnesty bill when it comes to the parliament.

“We are the government of the Ukrainian people, the government of Donetsk, Lviv, Ternopil, Luhansk, Simferofol. This is the government of one state. We are ready to protect Ukrainian state and we can achieve it," Yatsenuk said.

On his part, President Turchynov condemned separatist movements in the country’s east and called on all citizens to protect the country’s territorial integrity.

Turchynov also pledged that he would do his best to help the planned reforms envisaging more powers for the local authorities pass from the parliament.

The crisis in Ukraine began in November after Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych opted to ditch a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. Subsequent protests culminated in his ouster in February.

Defying the Kiev administration formed after Yanukovych’s ouster, the Russian-majority Crimean peninsula voted in a March 16 referendum to secede from Ukraine to join Russia. The move became official on March 21.

Ukraine's mostly Russian-speaking east appears as the current flashpoint of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the West over Kiev’s allegiances.

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