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Ukraine's Prime Minister Calls For Referendum On New Constitution

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has called for a referendum to be held on a new constitution for the country.

Speaking on January 24 in his weekly televised speech, Yatsenyuk said it is “high time for the Ukrainian people to have its say about a new Ukrainian constitution in a new European Ukraine.”

Yatsenyuk said the constitution would be a “new agreement on redistribution of powers between authorities, an agreement on relations between the center and the country’s regions, an agreement on a new honest and fair judicial system, and on clear geopolitics” – namely, on the country’s future goals of becoming members of the European Union and NATO.

Yatsenyuk’s remarks came a day after President Petro Poroshenko warned the country’s politicians that the collapse of the Minsk agreements aimed at ending a war with Russia-backed separatists could set off a "full-scale conflict" with Russia.

Speaking at a conference of local leaders in Kyiv on January 23, Poroshenko said, “Those political forces that want to torpedo the Minsk agreements at any cost...and to block the constitutional process, must clearly understand the consequences of their actions."

"They will lead to the resumption of the 'hot phase' of the conflict, including a full-scale -- and not local, as it has been so far -- conflict with Russia," he said.

Poroshenko’s words appeared to be aimed at foes of "decentralization" legislation that Ukraine is required to pass under the peace deal signed in February 2015 by Ukraine, Russia, and separatists who hold parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Minsk deal is crucial for Kyiv because it calls for the restoration of Ukrainian control over the state border between the separatist-held territories and Russia -- which has backed the separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014.

With reporting by Unian, Interfax, and TASS