Thousands protest in Kiev against autonomy plan for eastern Ukraine

About 10,000 people gathered in central Kiev on Sunday to protest a plan for broader autonomy for separatist territories ahead of a high-stakes summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, news wires reported. The protesters, who descended on Kiev's Independence Square known locally as Maidan, chanted "No to surrender!", with some holding placards critical of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky's predecessor Petro Poroshenko, who was trounced in an April election, joined the rally.

Zelensky is gearing up to hold his first summit with Putin in an effort revive a stalled peace process to end the five-year separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ahead of the meeting Ukrainian, Russian and separatist negotiators agreed on a roadmap that envisages special status for separatist territories if they conduct free and fair elections under the Ukrainian constitution. Zelensky's critics fear that Putin will push the 41-year-old comedian-turned-politician to make damaging concessions in order to retain Moscow's de-facto control of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

The provisional agreement of a roadmap was a key condition set by Moscow for a meeting that will be hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and also involve German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The plan has been dubbed "the Steinmeier formula", after the former German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who proposed it. But many critics say the proposal favours Russia. Zelensky's predecessor Poroshenko has called it "Putin's formula," claiming it will endorse the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow's de-facto control of eastern Ukraine.




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