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Amid Scuffles And Smoke, Bills On East Ukraine Conflict Advance In Parliament


KYIV -- A Ukrainian parliamentary debate on legislation addressing the conflict in the country's east was interrupted by scuffles and a smoke grenade that was tossed into the auditorium.

Despite the disruption, lawmakers gave approval on October 6 to two bills submitted by President Petro Poroshenko, whose government is fighting Russia-backed separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

One of the bills sets out steps to restore Ukrainian sovereignty over separatist-held parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which border Russia, and the other is a bid to create "the conditions necessary for peaceful regulation" of the conflict.

Before votes in which the Verkhovna Rada approved the bills, opposition lawmakers scuffled with members of Poroshenko's party near the podium.

Minutes after the votes, Yuriy Levchenko of the nationalist Svoboda party threw a smoke grenade -- saying later that he did so "to protest the anticonstitutional move."

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The first bill would define territory controlled by the separatists as "temporarily occupied," define Moscow's actions in those areas as "Russian aggression against Ukraine," and give the president the right to use the armed forces to restore control.

It would also give UN Security Council resolutions precedence over the February 2015 deal on a cease-fire and steps toward peace known as the Minsk agreement.

The second bill would prolong, by a year, the legal force of a 2014 law on self-governing structures in the separatist-held areas.

Lawmakers from the People's Front, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), and Samopomich (Self-Assistance) parties have opposed the second bill, saying it gives the separatists legal status.

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