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Ukraine's Prime Minister Outlines Plans For Constitutional Reforms

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right),acting President Oleksandr Turchynov (left) delivered an address together on television. (file photo)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right),acting President Oleksandr Turchynov (left) delivered an address together on television. (file photo)
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and acting President Oleksandr Turchynov have spoken about constitutional reform in a joint television address.

Yatsenyuk said in the April 18 address that part of the comprehensive constitutional reform his government is planning includes the decentralization of power, which would strengthen the authority of the country's regions and local councils.

Yatsenyuk also said the amended constitution "will accord special status to the Russian language and guarantee to protect it."

Yatsenyuk called for national unity and appealed for people to refrain from violence.

He also called on the country's parliament to approve a bill granting amnesty to participants in protests in the eastern part of the country who were taken into custody.

Yatsenyuk and Turchynov's joint address comes after top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the European Union met in Geneva on April 17, seeking ways to de-escalate the tense situation in Ukraine.

A four-party declaration was released at the end of the meeting that called, among other things, for all illegal armed groups to disarm and disband and for those occupying government buildings to vacate those premises immediately.

UKRAINE BLOG: Standoff In The East
Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said on April 18 that the Geneva declaration was a "kind of a test of whether all the parties that adopted it are dedicated to de-escalating and stabilizing the situation in Eastern Ukraine."

Russia's envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said the authorities in Kyiv are misinterpreting the meaning of the April 17 Geneva declaration.

Chizhov said the authorities in Kyiv believe the part about vacating seized buildings "only applies to the eastern and southern provinces and those who are demanding federalism, but it [doesn't apply] to Kyiv, where everything seems to be legal including the ongoing occupation of Maidan [Independence Square]."

Shortly after the Geneva declaration was made public on April 17, pro-Russian groups occupying government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk said they would not vacate those buildings until the supporters of the new government vacated Independence Square in Kyiv.

On April 18, Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of pro-Russian groups in Donetsk said he agreed to evacuate government buildings pro-Russian groups have seized. But he said the agreement means "everyone has to leave the buildings -- including comrades [Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk and [Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr] Turchynov who also, let's say, as an illegal result of a military coup, came and occupied their place."

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Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it was "disappointed" with the United States' assessment of the Geneva talks.

The statement accused Washington of trying to "whitewash" what the ministry claimed was the use of force by Kyiv's authorities against pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine.

The ministry said it was "clear when we talk about disarmament, we mean first of all confiscating weapons from the militants of the Right Sector and other pro-fascist groups."

The statement also said blame for the current situation in eastern Ukraine has been"groundlessly" laid at Russia's door.

The ministry accused the United States of sounding "notes of ultimatum" in several recent statements which threatened further sanctions against Russia.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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