, KIEV, September 16- Ukraine is set to ratify a disputed EU agreement and offer limited self-rule to parts of the separatist east as it moves to turn the page on the bloodiest chapter of its post Soviet history.
Lawmakers in the Ukrainian and European parliaments are scheduled to sign the 1,200 page political and economic association agreement during a live video hookup that begins on Tuesday, at 1000 GMT.
But the historic occasion has been muted by the two sides’ decision to bow to Russian pressure and delay until 2016 applying the free trade rules that pulled Ukraine out of a rival union being built by the Kremlin.
The rejection of the same deal by Kremlin backed president Viktor Yanukovych in November triggered the bloody chain of events that led to his February ouster and Russia’s subsequent seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
The defiant decision by Kiev’s new pro Western leaders to still strike the EU deal saw Moscow cut off its neighbour’s supply of Russian gas and allegedly orchestrate a separatist revolt in the Russian speaking east that has now claimed more than 2,700 lives.
Russia’s denials of involvement have not spared it from waves of punishing Western sanctions that have left President Vladimir Putin more isolated and acting less predictably than at any stage of his dominant 15 year reign.
But a European mediated truce Kiev and Moscow clinched on September 5 has offered the first significant glimmer of hope that the five month crisis may at last be abating and allowing East-West tensions to mend.
In the latest diplomatic sortie, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed, during a phone call with Putin Monday, the importance of a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Merkel was clear that such a troop pull out and proper control of the Ukraine-Russia border “are key eleements to a durable solution to the conflict,” a German government statement said.
– Three years of self-rule –
The ceasefire has been repeatedly broken, with six civilians and an unconfirmed number of soldiers killed in a new rebel advance towards the airport near their main eastern stronghold of Donetsk.
Poroshenko still intends to submit to parliament Tuesday a peace package that offers three years of limited self rule to parts of the rebel held territory.
It also crucially guarantees the right for Russian to be spoken in all state institutions — a particularly sensitive issue in the war zone.
The Ukrainian leader argued just 101 days into his presidency Monday that his plan offers Kiev the best way out of crisis because it guarantees “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of our state”.
Parliament is now dominated by government supporters and the measures are likely to pass.