Ukrainian lawmakers have approved a draft law to grant special status to the rebel-held areas in the country’s east. The Verkhovna Rada approved the bill on March 17.

The text of the bill outlines the boundaries of particular districts in the areas under pro-Russian separatist control that could be granted special status with limited self-rule.

That was a key part of the cease-fire deal reached in Minsk last month.

The bill also says rebel-held areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be granted their special status after holding elections in accordance with Ukrainian law and under international observation.

Russia and the rebels sharply criticized the bill on March 16.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the proposals on special status put before Ukrainian deputies included "additional terms never previously discussed."

Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in Donetsk region, described the bill as “a crude violation” of the Minsk deal.