Officials in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine announced Tuesday they will postpone local elections that were going to be held shortly, sidestepping a contentious issue that had blocked progress toward a resolution for the war in Ukraine. Ukraine’s president and Russian lawmakers hailed the move as a step toward peace. More than 8,000 people have been killed since April 2014 during fighting between Ukrainian government troops and the Russia-backed separatists. A statement Tuesday from Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego said the rebel-run areas of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces would put off their local votes until Feb. 21.
The two men are the rebel envoys to the Minsk Group peace talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Donetsk had planned an election on Oct. 18 and Luhansk was going to vote on Nov. 1.
In exchange for postponing the vote, the separatists say Ukraine must grant a special status to the mostly Russian-speaking region, broadly called Donbass, as envisioned by Minsk peace accord.