- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukraine’s former leader on Wednesday accused the current government of betraying the country’s interests, a day after it signed accords with Russia-backed separatists in the east.

“This is a capitulation to Russia,” former President Petro Poroshenko told reporters in parliament.

The agreement signed Tuesday with the separatists, Russia and European mediators pledged to hold a local election in the rebel-held east. Current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed it as a major step toward resolving the five-year conflict between the separatists and government troops that has killed more than 13,000 people.

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The opposition, including Poroshenko who left office earlier this year after losing the election to Zelenskiy, on Wednesday raised the alarm about the agreement, saying that it opens the door for cementing Russia’s presence in the region.

The agreement is “playing into Russia’s hands” because Ukraine has committed to holding the local election but did not receive any guarantees that it would regain control of all of its border with Russia, Poroshenko said.

Andriy Parubiy, former parliament speaker, said that he would push for hearings into the accords, accusing the Zelenskiy administration of sidelining society from decision-making. Zelenskiy’s party holds a majority in parliament after a resounding defeat for Poroshenko and Parubiy’s allies in a snap election this summer.

Over the past years, Russia has used the border with eastern Ukraine to send in troops and weapons to the separatists.

Zelensky, however, insisted on Tuesday that the local election would be held only under Ukrainian law and after Ukraine regains control of the border.

Darka Olifer, spokeswoman for Ukrainian envoy to the talks Leonid Kuchma, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that all parties have committed to consider the vote valid only if monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rule that the election was free and fair.

The election agreement was seen as the final hurdle before a summit between Zelensky, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France and Germany, who have helped mediate the peace talks.

Russia has tried to play down its involvement in eastern Ukraine in recent years, pulling back its troops and mostly relying on proxy forces. The separatists, in the meantime, re-branded their fighters as police or other law enforcement officers.


Vasilyeva reported from Moscow.

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