Thousands of people gathered in Kiev's main square on Sunday to protest President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's agreement with Moscow to secure autonomy for pro-Russian Ukrainian East as part of efforts to end a five-year conflict in the country.
In the first move toward a possible peace deal in years, envoys from Moscow and Kiev agreed on talks on Tuesday over the election schedule for the Donbass region and legislation that gives it special status. Ukraine has also agreed to recover its forces from the current line of contact with separatist fighters.
But for many Ukrainians, these measures represent a huge betrayal by Zelenskiy, who took power in April after a landslide election victory. The war in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 13.000 people since April of 2014.
“This is the beginning of the total capitulation of Ukraine,” Roman, 53, who fought at Donbass as a volunteer. He refused to give his last name.
Legislator Yana Zinkevych, who belongs to former President Petro Poroshenko's party, "European Solidarity", was among those attending the rally.
"This is Putin's formula, these are the things that protect Russia's interests and not ours, we have to fight and prevent its implementation," Zinkevych told a crowd of a stage in the square.
Last week's agreement paved the way for a resumption of high-level peace talks to end the conflict, which helped send Russia's ties with the West to post-Cold War lows in 2014.
Zelenskiy said last week that he will discuss a peace deal for Donbass in upcoming negotiations with Russia, Germany and France. He said any election in Donbass will be held only after all Russian troops have left. Russia denies having troops there.
At the moment, Zelenskiy's party, "Servant of the People", which holds the majority of 251 seats in the Ukrainian parliament, is still short of the 300 votes needed to change the constitution and give Donbass autonomy.
“We have heard that parliament must vote for some special status in these territories. We will do our best to ensure that Parliament does not support any special status, any conditions that Russia or Putin imposes on us, ”said Inna Sovsun, a parliamentary from the opposition Golos (Voice) party.
"The only formula we are ready to accept is the formula ... which was written in our Constitution, the formula by which thousands of people died, this is the formula of a united sovereign Ukraine," said Sovsun.
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