Conflict in Ukraine

Associated Press
Russia-backed rebels take positions on the outskirts of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 2, 2015. OSCE monitors accompanied by pro-Russian rebels visited the ruins of Donetsk Airport and nearby areas to monitor the situation on the ground and discuss the observance of February’s cease-fire. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday publicly lifted his objections to a referendum that could give more powers to the restive regions engulfed in more than a year of warfare, reversing his government's previous position. Russia-backed separatists, however, dismissed Poroshenko's gesture as meaningless.

The conflict between Russia-backed rebels and government troops in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 6,000 lives. When it began, protesters in the east demanded a vote on giving their regions more autonomy. Such calls were rejected by the Ukrainian government at the time.

But Poroshenko on Monday met a parliamentary commission that is drafting amendments to the country's main law and said in a televised meeting that if the commission decides a referendum is necessary, he would not stand in the way.

"I'm ready to launch a referendum on the issue of state governance if you decide it is necessary," he said. (AP)

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