Kiev vows 'special status' for Russian language

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Friday pledged "special status" for the Russian language and a broad decentralisation of power in a bid to defuse pro-Moscow protests sweeping the east of the country.

"We will accord special status to the Russian language and guarantee to protect it," Yatsenyuk said.

Yatsenyuk also promised to put forward "major" constitutional reforms that would see a raft of powers handed to the regions.

Fears over the status of the Russian language and demands for greater regional autonomy have fuelled separatist sentiment in Ukraine's industrial heartland.

Russia's parliament has given leader Vladimir Putin the green light to send troops into Ukraine to protect the country's Russian-speaking population if he deems it necessary.

Ukraine on Wednesday inked a deal with Moscow, Brussels and Washington aimed at ending the unrest in the east but pro-Moscow militants have so far refused to budge.

As part of the reforms, Yatsenyuk also promised greater financial resources for the regions.

neo-del/rmb/hmn