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Ukraine separatists stay put

By Agencies in Kiev and Slaviansk, Ukraine | China Daily | Updated: 2014-04-19 07:31

Mistrust between pro-Russian force, Kiev govt may hinder Geneva deal

Armed pro-Russian separatists were still holding public buildings in eastern Ukraine on Friday, saying they needed more assurances about their security before they comply with an international deal ordering them to disarm.

The agreement, brokered by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday, offered the best hope yet of defusing a standoff in Ukraine.

However, implementing the agreement will be difficult because of the deep mistrust between the pro-Russian groups and the Western-backed government in Kiev.

In Slaviansk, which became a flashpoint in the crisis after men with Kalashnikovs took control last weekend, leaders of pro-Russian gunmen met early on Friday on how to respond to the Geneva agreement.

In front of the Slaviansk mayor's office, men armed with Kalashnikovs peered over sandbags, which had been piled higher overnight. Separatists remained in control of the city's main streets.

"Are we going to leave the buildings so that they can come and arrest us? I don't think so," said a man guarding the road, who identified himself as Alexei.

But he acknowledged that the Geneva talks had changed the situation.

"It turns out Vova doesn't love us as much as we thought," said Alexei, using a diminutive term for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president viewed by many of the separatist militias in eastern Ukraine as their champion and protector.

Putin declared Russia had a right to intervene in neighboring countries and by annexing Crimea.

Moscow's takeover of the Black Sea region followed the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, after months of street protests prompted by his rejection of a trade deal with the EU.

In the capital, Kiev, people on the Maidan, or Independence Square, which was the center of protests that toppled Yanukovych, said the barricades would not come down until the May 25 presidential election.

"If the authorities try to do that (remove the barricades) by force, thousands and thousands of people will come to stop them," said Volodymyr Shevchenko from the southern Kherson region.

The Right Sector, a far-right nationalist group whose violent street tactics in support of the Maidan helped bring down Yanukovych in February, saw the Geneva accord as being directed only at pro-Russian separatists in the east.

"We don't have any illegal weapons, so the call to disarm will not apply to us," said Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky.

Order restored?

US President Barack Obama said the meeting in Geneva between Russia and Western powers was promising but that the US and its allies were prepared to impose more sanctions on Russia if the situation fails to improve.

"There is the possibility, the prospect, that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation," Obama said.

"The question now becomes, will in fact they use the influence they've exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election and move forward with the decentralization reforms that they've proposed," he said.

The Geneva agreement required all illegal armed groups to disarm, demanded an end to the illegal occupation of public buildings, streets and squares, and gave a leading role to overseeing the deal to monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


 Ukraine separatists stay put

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia (right) speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton (bottom left) in Geneva on Thursday, after a day of talks about the Ukraine crisis. Jim Bourg / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 04/19/2014 page10)

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