Ukraine Rebels Delay Local Election as Weapon Pullback Continues

Pro-Russian insurgents who’ve established self-proclaimed separatist republics in Ukraine’s easternmost regions agreed to postpone local elections until next year under an agreement last week to meet more conditions of a February cease-fire.

The votes will be delayed until Feb. 21 if the government in Kiev fulfills all of its obligations under the truce accord signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk, rebel-controlled news website DAN reported. It cited a joint statement by the representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deynego.

The ballots have been a point of contention in efforts to calm the conflict, which has killed more than 8,000 people since last year. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris last week that Ukraine will pass legislation allowing elections in regions outside of the government’s control to take place legally. The agreement also envisions Ukraine regaining control over its border with Russia.

Ukraine’s government welcomed the decision to postpone the local votes and called for the separatists to cancel the results of elections they held last November, Dariia Olifer, spokesman for former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said on Facebook. After the votes, which weren’t recognized by Ukraine or the international community, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitskiy were declared the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics. Scrapping the results will allow the separatist republics to “return to the legal realm,” Olifer said.

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