Officials of the eastern Ukraine regions under the control of Russia-backed separatists say they will postpone local elections that were to be held in the next several weeks, an issue that had impeded progress toward a firm resolution of the conflict.

A statement Tuesday from Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego said the rebel-run areas of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces would put off the votes until Feb. 21, 2016. The two are the Donetsk and Luhansk envoys to talks of the Minsk Group peace talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Donetsk had planned elections on Oct. 18 and Luhansk on Nov. 1.

In exchange for postponing the vote, the separatists say Ukraine must grant special status to the region as envisioned by Minsk Group accords.