Ukrainian legislators on Tuesday passed a law granting broader autonomy to the Donetsk and Luhansk eastern regions, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declaring the move protects the "sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence" of Ukraine while advancing decentralization.
The new bill, initially proposed by Poroshenko, grants greater self-rule to the two regions for a three year period, which includes local elections and policing and use of the Russian language in schools. The bill also stipulates a limited commitment to provide aid to some damaged areas.
A separate amnesty bill, also passed by Ukraine's parliament, will shield "participants of events in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions" from criminal prosecution—a protection that applies to rebel fighters and Ukrainian soldiers, according to an analysis by AFP. Combatants from both sides stand accused of human rights abuses and war crimes.
The new laws were promised in a ceasefire deal signed by Poroshenko earlier this month. According to the United Nations, at least 3,000 people have been killed in Ukraine, and at least 310,000 internally displaced people from Crimea and Donbas are in need of immediate assistance.
But also on Tuesday, in an apparent gesture of fealty to the West, Ukrainian legislators ratified a pact for political and economic association with the European Union. The rejection of this agreement last year by former President Victor Yanukovych touched off protests that led to his ouster in February.