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Cease-Fire Holding in Ukraine          09/01 06:25

   The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels say a much-anticipated 
cease-fire is holding.

   KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels say 
a much-anticipated cease-fire is holding.

   The military conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 6,800 lives 
since it began in April 2014. A truce brokered by Western powers in February 
helped to subdue the fighting but did not stop it completely.

   Sept. 1 is the first day of school in Ukraine and government troops and 
separatists agreed last month to implement the cease-fire by then.

   In Kiev, Ukrainian presidential administration spokesman Oleksandr 
Motuzyanyk said they have not recorded any use of large-caliber weapons 
overnight despite sporadic use of rifles and grenade launchers. Motuzyanyk also 
said there were no casualties overnight.

   In Donetsk, rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told Russian news agencies 
that troops did not attack their positions overnight.

   THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. 
AP's earlier story is below.

   The death toll from violent protests in Ukraine rose to two on Tuesday when 
another National Guard officer died from injuries suffered in a grenade 
explosion, the interior minister said.

   In the worst outburst of violence in Kiev since the new government took 
power in 2014, nationalist protesters clashed with police and National Guard 
troops outside Ukraine's parliament on Monday as lawmakers took up a measure to 
give greater powers to Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

   About 140 people were hospitalized, most of them law enforcement officers, 
the Interior Ministry said. One National Guard officer died on Monday, and a 
second died a day later, both as a result of injuries caused by the grenade, 
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said.

   Most of the 100 violent protesters were members of Svoboda, a nationalist 
party that holds only a handful of seats in parliament. Wielding truncheons, 
pipes and sticks with nails, they faced off against police carrying shields and 
truncheons.

   About 30 protesters were detained, of whom 18 remained in custody on 
Tuesday, including the man suspected of throwing the grenade. Avakov said he 
was a Svoboda member who fought in the east in one of the volunteer battalions, 
which are loosely controlled by the government.

   President Petro Poroshenko, on a hospital visit to see the injured officers, 
pledged to find the organizers of the clashes who were handing out sticks and 
weapons like grenades.

   The decentralization of power was a condition demanded by Russia for a truce 
signed in Belarus in February aimed at ending the fighting between Ukrainian 
government troops and Russia-backed separatists that has left more than 6,800 
people dead since April 2014.

   But Ukrainian nationalists strongly oppose the constitutional changes, 
saying they would threaten the country's sovereignty and independence.

   Poroshenko and his supporters insist that the constitutional amendment would 
devolve powers to local communities in all of Ukraine, from east to west, while 
making sure that Ukraine stays a unitary state.

   While Ukrainian nationalists think the amendment gives too much power to the 
regions including the east, Russia-backed rebels there say this is not enough.

   Speaking to Russian news agencies in Donetsk, rebel leader Alexander 
Zakharchenko criticized Poroshenko for taking out a clause that could offer 
sovereignty to the east and make it a part of a loose confederation within 
Ukraine.

   Now that 265 lawmakers have given it preliminary approval, the bill comes up 
for the final vote where Poroshenko will need to get at least 300 votes.


(KA)


 
 
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