KIEV, April 8 (RAPSI) - Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has adopted a draft law that proposes more severe penalties for separatism, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.

Under the bill, intentional acts aimed at territorial changes or state boundary adjustment will be punished by imprisonment for up to 12 years, as well as the seizure of property.

The bill also stipulates criminal liability for sabotage and espionage. These crimes will be punished by imprisonment for a term ranging between 14 and 15 years.
High treason will be punished by imprisonment for a term ranging between 14 and 15 years, or a life sentence and property seizure.

The adoption of the legislation was evidently triggered by pro-Russia protests in the eastern provinces of Ukraine, where protesters took over offices of the national security service in Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as the regional administration headquarters in Kharkov.

The legislation must be signed by acting president Aleksandr Turchinov. It will take effect after its official publication.

Calls for secession have been spreading across Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking eastern regions following the Verkhovna Rada’s impeachment of Viktor Yanukovich and reversion to the country’s 2004 constitution in February.

Protesters in eastern Ukraine, who have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new authorities, have been gathering since March, demanding referendums on the status of their regions.

Earlier in March, the south-eastern region of Crimea moved for independence from Ukraine in the aftermath of escalating clashes in Kiev and the flight of Viktor Yanukovich from the country. Crimea held a referendum on breaking away from Ukraine with 93% of voters backing independence from Ukraine and accession to Russia.