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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Pro-Russian rebels stubbornly refused to cede control of a string of towns in eastern Ukraine on Friday, jeopardizing a deal backed by the West and Russia meant to ease tensions and rejecting promises of concessions from Kiev.

The refusal to budge came despite an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough Thursday worked out between Kiev, Moscow, Washington and Brussels following talks in Geneva to defuse the deepest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

If the hard-won agreement collapses — as Western and Ukrainian leaders fear it might — the United States has said it will quickly ramp up sanctions on Russia, which it holds responsible for supporting the separatists and stoking the crisis.

The surprise agreement hammered out in Geneva called for “all illegal armed groups” to disarm and leave seized state buildings and squares.

In return they would benefit from an amnesty for actions over the past two weeks that brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war.

But in the main eastern city of Donetsk, where rebel gunmen wearing ski-masks still occupied a barricaded government building, there was defiance, with the Russian national anthem blaring out through speakers.

Denis Pushilin, a prominent member of the self-declared Donetsk Republic, said he agreed that the buildings should be vacated, but that the leaders in Kiev must also leave the buildings “that they are occupying illegally since their coup d’etat” in February.

In nearby Slavyansk, insurgents remained defiant, holed up inside a seized police station.

Unyielding pro-Russian militants also manned barricades of tyres and sandbags in another town of Kramatorsk while Ukrainian military helicopters continued to land at a nearby aerodrome that remains under Kiev’s control.

Despite earlier saying that he held out little hope for the peace deal, in a bid to help defuse the pro-Moscow protests Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged safeguards for the Russian language and a broad decentralisation of power; both key demands of the Russian-speaking militants.

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

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya suggested the authorities would hold off temporarily from any more military action on the ground to give the agreement time to take effect.

“If this does not begin in the next few days then I think after Easter there will be more concrete actions,” Deshchytsya told journalists. Easter in Orthodox Ukraine ends on Monday.

Deshchytsya said he was meeting with representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to hammer out a timetable for their representatives to head to eastern Ukraine to verify if the accord is being implemented.

The Ukrainian government and many Western states strongly believe the occupations took place with the active support of elite Russian military units, allegations Moscow denies.

To back their claims, Ukraine said it was holding 10 Russian “spies” it believes were sent to stir up unrest. It has also, according to the Russian airline Aeroflot, banned the entry of Russian males aged 16 to 60.

In a rare success, the Ukrainian army said that it had recovered two of six armoured vehicles captured by separatists during a disastrous military operation earlier in the week.

– ‘No high hopes’ –

Armed pro-Russian activists guard a barricade outside the regional state building seized by the separatists, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 18, 2014

In Kiev, pro-Western protesters who have maintained street barricades since forcing the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych two months ago vowed to stay put.

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Pro-Russian Militants? More like Russian soldiers. Starve them out.

  • charleo1

    I don’t agree with sanctions in this case. Tell me why I’m wrong? Then, explain to me, why there is never a situation arising anywhere in the world in which the U.S. must take a position, then go about enforcing it in ever escalating measures? First it’s sanctions, then, it’s tougher sanctions. Then, it’s food, and medical aid, to alleviate the situation the sanctions have now turned into a crisis. Then, there is violence, and we send our side assault rifles, body armor, night goggles, inform them via satellite of battlefield conditions. Then, as competing factions do the same, it is now no longer a domestic, or civil uprising. It becomes a proxy war, between two rivaling economic alliances, playing geo-political warfare, using the lives, and fate of the people, and territory involved in the conflict as pawns. This is how two nuclear armed governments conduct war. It’s how we conducted war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, which created the Mujahideen, that morphed into Al Qaeda, when our real combatant, the Soviet Union withdrew. So, what were we trying to accomplish that had any moral component/underpinning to it? I think we should make these multinational corporations take care of themselves. Am I so wrong, just enviously, picking on the rich here? They tell the U.S. right up front, they have no loyalties to any particle government, or political/economic system. No intention of requiring the governments they crawl in bed with to observe human Rights, protect the environment, or have any concerns, that at the end of the day, become powerful enough to dictate their rules to the Nations of the World that do. To revive a question from the Vietnam era, “What are we fighting for? We seem to have forgotten to ask, that very important question yet again, before bulling head long into yet another conflict. In which our only possible interest is creating a NATO aligned, unstable Ukraine, along Russia’s Southern Border. Which doesn’t seem to be in the interests of avoiding war, but making war, and a wider, and bloodier one, more likely. I’ll admit, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So, someone tell me, what are we fighting for in The Ukraine?