Kiev, April 20 - The Ukrainian foreign ministry announced Saturday that it has taken first steps toward applying the Geneva accord, including the suspension of active anti-terrorism operations and the beginning of a public debate on constitutional reform.

Ukraine calls on the signatories of the Geneva accord to make the greatest effort to block an escalation in eastern Ukraine, the ministry said in a communique.

Ukrainian security forces have decided to halt all operations in the eastern insurgent regions, particularly in Donetsk, during the Orthodox Easter, which coincides this year with the Catholic feast.

What has not been suspended is the interior ministry's campaign to seize illegal arms among the civilian population.

The Ukrainian government has given until October to hear proposals for constitutional reform, with one goal being the decentralisation of executive power as demanded by the pro-Russians, but without going so far as to divide the unified state.

Kiev expresses its willingness to shift larger budget, tax and administrative responsibilities to the regions, and even mentions the possibility of giving official status to the Russian language.

The communique recalls that the Ukrainian executive branch has prepared an amnesty project for those who took part in the massive disturbances in the southeast, which will be applied to those who lay down their arms and vacate the government buildings they have occupied.

The amnesty will not affect pro-Russian militants who have committed serious crimes.

Both sides note the importance of adopting urgent measures for stabilising the situation in the eastern part of the country, Russian-speaking in its majority.

Pro-Russians remain entrenched in a barricaded Donetsk City Hall, while similar situations reign in other government buildings in the towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, where insurgents have recaptured the television tower to interrupt Ukrainian TV broadcasts.

Ukraine, Russia, the US and the European Union reached an agreement in Geneva Thursday obliging pro-Russian irregular militias to disarm and vacate official buildings.

Moscow, accused by Kiev of inciting the uprising, promised to cooperate with the application of the accord, which must be supervised by international observers.



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