Ukraine inches closer to long-anticipated reform to give more powers to the regions

Ukraine's parliament has made the first step toward devolving more powers to separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian government troops has killed more than 6,400 people since fighting there began in April last year.

An armistice signed in February calls for a political resolution in the region including a constitutional reform that will give all Ukrainian regions — and the east specifically — more powers.

Presenting the bill on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insisted that the changes he is proposing would not turn Ukraine into a federation, which the rebels originally sought. He says that along with giving more powers to local authorities throughout the country, the bill allows broader autonomy in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.