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Bloody street clashes follow Ukrainian parliament's vote in favor of granting separatist regions greater autonomy

The Ukrainian parliament has voted in favor of a constitutional reform meant to decentralize the distribution of power in the government. 265 parliament members voted in favor of the reform (the minimum vote needed was 226). The changes must now be approved at a second parliamentary hearing, during which two-thirds of the vote must be gathered in order for the reform to be passed.

The reform aims to decentralize government power in order to grant greater autonomy to Ukraine’s regions. The plan includes allowing local self-governance in the separatist Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which are currently engaged in a conflict with pro-Kiev government forces.

Earlier today, as parliament members were gathering for the hearing, representatives of Ukraine’s Radical party blocked the parliamentary podium in protest against the reform. Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party was also against the reform.

On the morning of the parliamentary hearing, a protest against the reform attracted roughly 1,000 people to the square in front of the parliament building in Kiev. According to Ukrainian news source Ukrainskaya Pravda, most of the protesters represented far-right groups, such as the Radical Party of Ukraine and the nationalist organization “Svoboda.” After the parliamentary vote took place, confrontations occurred between the protesters and the police. Protesters began throwing smoke grenades at the parliament building and trying to break down the metal fence surrounding the building. According to news channel 112 Ukraina, the police used tear gas on the crowd. At least 100 police officers and national guard troops were injured in these clashes. At one point in the encounter, far-right activists even threw a grenade at police.

The constitutional reform was drafted in accordance with the Minsk peace deal, signed by Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany, with the aim of resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

The crisis has been raging since November 2013 in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where armed separatists are leading an uprising against the government in Kiev.

Ukraine’s constitutional court has already ruled in favor of the reform. The reform would eliminate gubernatorial posts in Ukraine’s regions (currently, the president appoints governors). Instead, the president would appoint prefects, and executive power would be given to local executive committees, which would be appointed by local parliaments. The regional parliaments, in turn, would be elected by local residents.