Ukraine signs key agreement with pro-Russian separatists

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The Ukrainian government signed an agreement Tuesday withpro-Russian separatists, Russia and European monitors that will allow a local election to be held in separatist-controlled in eastern Ukraine.

The agreement was signed after the parties met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and is seen as a major step by the new Ukrainian government under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy toward resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists.

In preparation for the election, the Ukrainian government and separatist leaders said they would withdraw troops from two locations in the Dontsk and Luhansk regions next week.

No election 'under the gun'

President Zelenskiy told reporters in Kyiv that Ukraine agreed to a local election only when Ukraine regains control of it borders with Russia. The president has faced criticism that Ukraine is giving concessions to Moscow and for following a policy of appeasement with Russia.

Read more: Opinion: Volodymyr Zelenskiy's grace period must end

"There won't be any elections under the barrel of a gun," Zelenskiy said. "There won't be any elections there if the troops are still there."

The government of Ukraine and the separatists agreed that the election will be valid if European observers from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) determined that they were conducted freely and fairly.

Peace summit expected

The election agreement has been seen as paving the way for a summit between Zelenskiy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the leaders of France and Germany. Russia had previously refused such a meeting, unless Ukraine agreed to hold a local election in Donbass.

Read more: What does Germany do for Ukraine?

After the agreement was signed, Zelenskiy said that nothing should stand in the way of the summit, and that a date will be announced soon. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he expects the summit in the coming weeks.

In Kyiv, there were reports of hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists protesting the development on Maidan square Tuesday, which symbolizes Ukraine's resistance to Russian influence on the country.

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wmr (AP, dpa)