While the European and Ukrainian parliaments have voted earlier today (16 September) to ratify the historic EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, the Ukrainian parliament also passed a new law granting self-rule to rebel-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine and giving amnesty to pro-Russian fighters. Both the European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev and gave their consent to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which also includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The deal aims to establish a deep political association and economic integration between both neighbors and provide for mutual free market access. The EU-Ukraine pact ratified today lies at the root of Ukraine’s crisis and it was the previous Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, and his resolute refusal to sign it in November 2013 that triggered mass protests and his fall from power.
At the same time, the measures designed to grant self-rule to Ukraine’s eastern regions are in line with the 5 September ceasefire agreement signed by the country’s President Petro Poroshenko. Ukraine and the West have steadfastly accused Russia of backing the rebels with soldiers and heavy weapons, a charge that Russia has repeatedly rejected. According to UN sources, at least 3,000 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict and more than 310,000 internally displaced in Ukraine. However, the measure granting amnesty to pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions does not cover the shooting down of the MH17 plane as well as other “grave” crimes committed during the conflict. Western and Ukrainian leaders and experts have accused the rebels of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines jet with a Russian missile in mid-July.