Ukraine talks end in initial deal but Putin will not take military option off the table
By End the Lie
Talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers along with the U.S. Secretary of State and EU foreign policy chief ended with the first steps toward de-escalation, though Putin refused to rule out the military option.
The agreement, reached Thursday, is the first real step toward de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine.
This comes after an effort launched by the Ukrainian military to oust pro-Russian militants fell flat on Wednesday.
An overnight clash between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian protesters left three pro-Russian activists dead and 13 wounded, according to The Washington Post.
“A mob of 300 militants, wielding guns, molotov cocktails and homemade explosives, attacked the Ukrainian military outpost in the city overnight,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.
The attack was met with resistance from the National Guard and police in the southeastern city of Mariupol, according to Avakov. An operation after the “short battle” conducted by Ukrainian commandos and counterintelligence units resulted in the detention of 63 separatists.
After six hours of negotiations in Geneva, Ukraine and Russia agreed to demobilize militias, vacate seized government buildings and establish a program for political reform, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement.
Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to make statements that many observers consider provocative.
In a televised event before the joint statement was released, Putin referred to the regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists as “Novorossiya,” or, “New Russia,” according to the WSJ.
“These are all territories that were given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet government. Why they did that, God only knows,” Putin said.
Putin also stated that the Kremlin “must do everything” to protect the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian speaking peoples in the region. This rhetoric is similar to that heard before the annexation of Crimea.
“I remind you that the Federation Council of Russia [the upper house of Parliament] empowered the president to use the armed forces in Ukraine,” Putin said during an annual call-in show, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Putin denied that Russian special forces were behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine, adding that the Ukrainian government’s moves to suppress the unrest is a “crime.”
The de-escalation deal does not state that Russia must pull back its troops.
However, the agreement does call for the disarming of “illegal armed groups” in Ukraine in exchange for amnesty for the militants, so long as they didn’t commit “grave crimes.”
In addition, “all administrative buildings must be returned to their legitimate owner,” referring to the various buildings seized by pro-Russian militants.
The agreement also calls for the removal of all road blocks and obstructions on public roads, according to the European Union’s statement.
International monitors with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will assist the Ukrainian government and local communities with carrying out the requirements in the agreement, according to the Associated Press.
Lavrov said that the OSCE mission “should play a leading role” moving forward.
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