KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's president on Monday dissolved parliament and called for early elections in October as his country continues to battle a pro-Russian insurgency in its eastern regions.
In a statement on his website, President Petro Poroshenko said snap elections would be held Oct. 26.
Poroshenko said the dissolution, which was prefigured by the breakup of the majority coalition last month, was in line with "the expectations of the vast majority of the citizens of Ukraine" and called it a move toward "cleansing" the parliament.
Many members of parliament "are allies of the militants-separatists," Poroshenko said, referring to the pro-Russian rebels who have battled government troops in the country's east since April.
The Party of Regions, which is backed by much of the country's industrial, Russian-speaking east and was supported by pro-Russian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, was the largest party in parliament before Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of massive protests in February and still has a substantial presence.
Most of these members "accepted dictatorial laws that took the lives of the Heaven's Hundred," he said, using the common term for those killed during the protests against Yanukovych, many by sniper fire.
He emphasized the need to elect new leaders from the war-torn areas of east Ukraine in order to represent the region in the new government. It wasn't clear how it would be possible to conduct elections at such short notice in Donetsk and Luhansk, where hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and shelling between rebel and government forces continues daily.
Over the past month, Ukrainian forces have made substantial inroads against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, taking control of several sizeable towns and cities that had been under rebel control since April, when the clashes began.
But the advances have come at a high cost — more than 2,000 civilians reportedly killed and at least 726 Ukrainian servicemen. There is no independent figure for the number of rebel dead, although Ukrainian authorities said Monday that 250 rebels were in fighting around Olenivka, a town 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Donetsk.
Many have expressed hopes ahead of a summit Tuesday in Minsk, Belarus that includes both Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and could be aimed at pressuring Ukraine into seeking a negotiated end to the conflict rather than a military victory.
Continue reading this story on the...