Ukraine: Nationalists protest peace deal on separatist areas
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — About 5,000 Ukrainian nationalists marched across the capital Kyiv Thursday to demand the repudiation of peace agreements for eastern Ukraine that promised a broad autonomy to the separatist regions.
Demonstrators also denounced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire along the tense line of contact in the conflict with Russia-backed separatists.
The conflict in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland called the Donbas erupted in 2014, weeks after Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula following the ouster of the country’s Russia-leaning president. The fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 14,000.
A 2015 peace deal signed in Minsk has helped end large-scale fighting, but frequent skirmishes have continued and efforts to achieve a political settlement have failed.
The peace accord that was brokered by France and Germany envisaged a broad autonomy for the separatist regions, but that provision was rejected by many in Ukraine and its implementation has stalled.
The organizers of Thursday’s march urged the Ukrainian government to renounce what they described as “anti-state agreements” and formally outlaw holding elections in “the temporarily occupied territories.”
They also assailed Zelenskyy’s efforts to end skirmishes across the line of contact as a betrayal of national interests.
Earlier this year, a spike in clashes in the conflict area and a buildup of Russian troops across the border fueled fears of a renewal of full-scale hostilities.
Zelenskyy on Thursday traveled to the conflict area. Speaking to military cadets, he emphasized the importance of reaching a peaceful settlement.