Europe Poroshenko offers decentralization referendum

Poroshenko offers decentralization referendum

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

(AA) – Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said late on Monday that he would consider a referendum that would decentralize central government powers in Ukraine.

 “I am ready to hold a referendum about the structure of the government, if you think it is necessary,” Poroshenko said, speaking to a commission on constitutional reform. 

The move could give the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, currently occupied by pro-Russian separatist rebels, a great degree of autonomy from the central government. 

In fact, the demand to federalize Ukraine was made by the rebels at the very outset of the conflict with the central government in Kiev.

The government has said that a majority of Ukrainians supported a single, unified government.

The process for adoption of a new constitution was started by the second Minsk agreement, between Russia, Ukraine and the rebels, signed on Feb. 12, and negotiated by leaders from France and Germany.

But the agreement only calls for decentralization of the government and does not specify what form that should take. 

Poroshenko said “decentralization” would concern “not regions, but the city, village and territorial community” and would not be around the question of “federalization,” which is favored by separatist leaders in east Ukraine.

“Federalization is like an infection, a biological weapon which they are trying to impose from outside Ukraine … to destroy our unity,” he said. “And we will not allow it.”

Denis Pushilin, rebel spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, rejected the notion of working with the Kiev commission, saying “the people who represent Donetsk in Kiev do not represent us.”

The estimated death toll caused by the continuing fighting in Ukraine has surpassed the 6,000 mark, the UN human rights office reported in March. 

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