Eastern Ukraine militants snub Geneva deal on crisis


James Reynolds reports as activists reinforce barricades in Donetsk

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk say they will not leave the government building there, defying the Kiev authorities and threatening a new international deal on Ukraine.

The separatists' spokesman said that the Kiev government was "illegal" and so they would not go until it stepped down.

Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US earlier agreed that illegal military groups in Ukraine must leave official buildings.

The deal was reached in Geneva.

The sides agreed that illegal military groups in Ukraine must be dissolved, and that those occupying buildings must be disarmed and leave them. The foreign ministers also agreed that there would be an amnesty for all anti-government protesters.

US President Barack Obama has cautiously welcomed the Geneva deal.

But he warned that the US and its allies were ready to impose new sanctions on Russia - accused by the West of supporting the Ukrainian separatists - if the situation failed to improve.

A tense standoff continues in eastern Ukraine, where separatists - many of them armed - are occupying official buildings in at least nine cities and towns.

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, 18 Apr 14 The "Donetsk People's Republic" refuses to recognise the Kiev authorities
East Ukraine map

Alexander Gnezdilov, spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said his group would evacuate the government building in the eastern city only when the "illegal" Kiev government vacated parliament and the presidential administration.

Another protest leader in Donetsk said the separatists would not leave unless pro-European Union demonstrators in Kiev's Maidan Square - the vanguard of the protest movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow - packed up their camp first.

A statement from the Donetsk separatists said "we cannot accept the values of the Kiev junta, we have our heroic past going back to World War Two, we are the Russian bear which is waking up".

"Don't worry, everything will stay peaceful and orderly. The only problem is if the Kiev junta want war."

They said they would not ask Russia for help yet, but "we will have a referendum before 11 May, about Donbass independence - after that we will ask for help".

The BBC's James Reynolds recorded his day as he and a BBC team covered events in eastern Ukraine

Addressing the Ukrainian parliament on Friday, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said an amnesty bill had been prepared for separatists who laid down their arms and left government buildings - and he urged them to do so.

"Russia was made to condemn extremism and to agree that all bandit groups should immediately lay down arms and vacate premises. So vacate. Your time is over. We are urging them to immediately observe what the Russian minister signed and to leave Ukraine alone," he said.

But later the Ukrainian interim authorities struck a more conciliatory tone. In a joint televised address, Mr Yatsenyuk and acting President Oleksander Turchynov appealed for national unity and promised to meet some of the demands of protesters in the east of the country.

They said they would support constitutional change, including the devolving of power to local councils - including over their official language, a key demand of Russian-speakers.

In other developments on Friday:

  • The interior ministry in Kiev issued an arrest warrant for Olexander Yanukovych, the eldest son of fugitive ex-President Yanukovych and a millionaire businessman, for alleged forgery of documents; the ex-president fled to Russia in February - it is not clear where he or Olexander are now
  • Russian shares bounced back after the Geneva deal - the RTS index in Moscow was up 2.8% and the MICEX up 2.3%. They had slumped earlier in the week
  • Russia demanded that Kiev explain an official notice restricting entry to Ukraine for most Russian men aged between 16 and 60.
Media spotlight on Putin

Russian newspapers devoted their front pages on Friday to coverage of a four-hour televised phone-in with President Vladimir Putin, rather than the Geneva talks.

"Vladimir Putin: You don't need to worry about a thing" said the front-page headline in Rossiskaya Gazeta, while Kommersant bore the headline: "Putin charts a stubborn line".

Pro-unity protest in Donetsk. 17 April 2014 These pro-Kiev protesters took to the streets in Donetsk

Mr Putin was repeatedly applauded by Russians during the live event, in which he demanded firm security guarantees and equal rights for Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

He said he hoped he would not have to use his "right" to send Russian forces into Ukraine.

Moscow is believed to have tens of thousands of troops massed along the border with its neighbour.

Mr Putin was speaking after Wednesday night's clash in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, in which three separatists were reportedly killed by Ukrainian security forces after hundreds of pro-Russians attacked a military base.

Start Quote

It is good that Russia is not taking the risk of an open confrontation with the West”

End Quote Vadym Karasyov Segodnya daily, Ukraine
US-UK resolve

But speaking in Washington just hours later, President Obama expressed scepticism as to whether Russia would keep its side of the bargain.

"My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days, but I don't think, given past performance, that we can count on that," he said.

In a telephone call with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the two leaders agreed that the United States and Europe were prepared to take further measures to impose a new round of sanctions if Russia failed to help restore order.

And speaking on Friday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We do want to see over this weekend Russia take the necessary actions to reduce tensions to make sure the agreement in Geneva yesterday is upheld.

"We believe that Russia contributed to destabilising the east of Ukraine over the last week, now it's an important obligation on them to contribute to stabilising it.

"We will all want to see evidence of that otherwise we will return to imposing more sanctions on Russia as we agreed at the beginning of the week."

Ukraine has been in crisis since President Yanukovych was toppled in February.

Russia then annexed the Crimean peninsula - part of Ukraine but with a Russian-speaking majority - in a move that provoked international outrage.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    I'm trying to think how the EU/US could have got this more wrong, but I'm having trouble thinking of anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    No wonder Russia agreed to UN agreement so quickly.

    They don't want Russian people getting ideas.

    They could have another Russian revolution on their hands

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    570: NONSENSE! Yanukovich abandoned his post, deserted if you like, because he was afraid of being prosecuted for corruption and the Maidan dead. So did PM Azarov and many cabinet ministers plus some POR MPs. The Rada- legally elected- had no alternative but to appoint an interim president and government plus announce elections, all in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    I guess the WEST should have thought about the dire consequences before helping instigate colorful revolutions in former soviet republics. Now in this chaos, everybody is looking for their interests first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    @ trufskr, totally agree.

    Many people talk about 'Russians' in Donbas (Eastern Ukraine). The indigenous population of Southern and Eastern Ukraine are Rusophone, if you disagree please take a flight to Donetsk or Kharkiv (I recommend them both) and ask them if they are Russians. It is like saying the 'pro EU' protestors from Western Ukraine should go back to Poland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Putin has played the West with a winning hand and yet Obama and Cameron still want us to believe they will be tough - who are they kidding. Russia supplies 25% of Europe's Natural Gas and they have us over a barrel. Further the West is impotent in respect of force as has already been shown in Syria. The people of The Ukraine will be left to spin in the wind - great shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    BBC When are you going to start reportingroperly on this...

    For the uninformed (that's you BBC reader).

    We got caught paying armed mercenaries to overthrow Yankovich in exchange for new leaders signing over gas deposits to East.

    The whole world except the West knows this, they want nothing to do with us and our invasions.

    Controlled media here? That's preposterous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    drb @556
    lesser of evils"

    No faith in EU influence on Kiev?

    Or just less faith than in Russia's support of a buffer-state?

    Such considerations speak volumes for our distance from real democracy, East and West equally ignorant & thus unready to agree our global citizenship, with free migration for 'global' reasons, home-ties balanced against adventure & vocation, not in poverty or terror

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    This situation sound like old adage which used to cause wars/conflicts in Africa. "You speak my language and you used to be part of me in 1800s, so is time to reunite". Those who are singing praises for Putin should cast their eyes on development of Africa and the other conflict-prone areas. I cry for Eastern Europeans and hope they will avoid ethnic conflicts with dialogues, than use of force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    If all good people were clever & all clever people were good, the world would be nicer than ever we thought it possibly could. But somehow 'tis seldom or never the 2 hit it off as they should, the good are so harsh to the clever, the clever, so rude to the good! Friends, let it be our endeavour, to make each by each understood, for few can be good, like the clever, or clever, so well as the good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    "We're having some problems rating this comment at the moment. Sorry. We're doing our best to fix it."

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    566. bobsan
    Ukrainian nationals..work in EU...hundreds of thousands immigrats

    For almost 10 years, I had excellent working relationships with Ukraine-based programmers and digital agencies - worked like a dream, everybody happy. This collaboration has now collapsed thanks to the separatists. Due to my suppliers/partners' superior levels of competence, I am forced to bring them to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Maybe Camerons christian values blinded him & his cabinet as to "unforseen over the horizon threats" when decimating UKs military.

    I cannot see how any responsible logic western politician could ignore & just abandon the threat of Putin, just as Russia/China will NEVER ignore the threat of extremist tea party Republican McCain & his violent expansionist plans which basically mirror Putins

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    The 'Nothing to do with me' brigade posting on here will bury their heads in the sand and wash their hands until their homes are bombed and their families wiped out. Similar attitudes were prevalent in 1939 and by '41 their opinions were polar opposite.
    Bullies need to be stood up against, and those that don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
    Putin is moving the same way as Adolph H

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    They should have called truce instead ! Sounds like USA getting involved way to much !

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    All ingredients for a major situation are present. Could this be the lead up to WWIII?

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    The key EU policy of enlargement is doing the UK no favours; we risk becoming awash with the waifes & strays of desperately poor states arguably on the fringes of Europe. It is ironic the Mr. Putin has signaled so far but no further to this crazy EU policy & is quite clear about where Europe ends even if Brussels is not. We may yet thank him. The Ukraine is not a European problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    I see no good coming out of this whole affair.
    The Ukranians have, by accident of birth, become stuck in the middle between two power blocks
    Their natural resources not being enough for either of their neighbours to previously grab
    So they are in no man's land.
    Enviously looking for a better life
    Which neither of their neighbours can give them.
    Can only give them grief.
    Who will be the new no man?

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    So many eastern Europeans including Russians living or trying to live in the west because there part of Europe is so poor ive been to Bulgaria 3 times and seen how poor they are there and looking at the news coverage it looks the same in Ukraine so why do they want to be part of Russia which would just mean more of the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    I am certainly glad that no one form HYS is leading the negotiations! Not too happy with the current politicians doing so either, whether they be Russian or "our" side. If the news is to be believed then the Russians recognise that the situation in the Ukraine is of their making and that Ukrainian Russian speaking peoples need to calm down and accept they live in Ukraine. Crimea was different.


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