DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — A rebel leader in eastern Ukraine on Monday accused the Kiev government of hampering a political solution for the conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives.
Andrei Purgin said in an interview with The Associated Press that the Minsk deal, brokered by Western leaders in February, has been "blocked" by Kiev's decision not to grant the area autonomy.
The Russia-backed rebels have for months insisted on independence from Ukraine. But they have also pushed for the Ukrainian government to pass legislation granting a wide autonomy to the region.
"The Minsk agreement isn't working, because the Ukrainian side has blocked it by the actions of the Rada," Purgin said on Monday.
The Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, passed a bill granting autonomy to an area in the east earlier this month but put the implementation of the law on hold until a local election is held there under Ukrainian laws, in line with the Minsk agreement. The lawmakers argued that the law cannot be implemented while the area is controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
The bill passed on April 17 defines the area inside two eastern regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, which will receive autonomy but only when the local elections are held. Along with the bill, the Rada also gave the green light to President Petro Poroshenko's petition to the UN to send peacekeepers into the east.
Hostilities have subsided across the region but flashpoints of fighting remain. One Ukrainian soldier died and three were injured in the past 24 hours, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.
Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.