Ukraine’s president: Separatist east will stay part of Ukraine

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said he will submit a bill to parliament next week granting parts of the separatist east greater autonomy, but keeping them part of Ukraine.

Poroshenko announced the move at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

He promised special status to some areas of the rebel-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but he rejected any talk of “federalization” or total independence.

Pro-Russian separatists have been battling government troops in eastern Ukraine in recent months.

Last week, Ukraine’s government and the rebels agreed to a cease-fire that appears to be holding for the most part, despite some violations.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is committed to peacefully resolving the Ukraine crisis.

The Kremlin’s press service reported that Putin spoke by telephone with Poroshenko and that the two leaders focused on shoring up the cease-fire deal reached last week.

Also Tuesday, the United States said it was finalizing measures to broaden sanctions against Russia for its actions against Ukraine.

Ukraine and NATO accuse Russia of providing direct help to the separatists, but Russia denies doing so.

The rebellion in eastern Ukraine, launched in April by pro-Russian separatists, has killed more than 2,600 people and created tens of thousands of refugees.