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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Constitution Draft Passed

KIEV -- Ukraine's parliament has passed the first reading of the country's draft constitution, which would consolidate its independence and tame the independent-minded Crimean peninsula.

The 450-seat parliament approved the draft Tuesday by 258 to 109, well below a two-thirds majority it would need at the decisive second reading expected in the next few weeks. Ukraine is the only former Soviet republic that has not yet adopted a new constitution.

Nationalist deputies have insisted that the post-Soviet constitution be adopted, or at least pass its first reading, before the June 16 presidential election in Russia.

They believe the new document should safeguard Ukraine's independence, which they believe is threatened by expansionist ambitions expressed by some Russian candidates.

The draft considerably narrows the autonomy of the Crimean peninsula, demanded by local pro-Russian parties that have caused problems for Kiev.