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Diplomats Announce Deal on Ukraine De-Escalation Plan

Top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the United States have agreed on a set of measures to ease mounting tensions in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking Thursday in Geneva, said the measures include disarming pro-Russian militants occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine and the return of the buildings to their legitimate owners.

A joint statement from the four powers says amnesty will be granted to protesters who surrender weapons and leave the buildings, except for those found guilty of capital crimes.

Speaking at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hopes Russia will honor the agreement. But he also said that given past practices, there are no assurances of cooperation from Moscow. He said his administration is holding talks with European allies about possible new sanctions if Russia reneges on the deal.



The seven-paragraph agreement does not specifically require Moscow to withdraw 40,000 troops massed on its border with Ukraine, and does not reference Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula last month. It also does not obligate Moscow to hold direct talks with the interim government in Kyiv.

But the four-party statement says monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will immediately begin to put the de-escalation measures into place.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke separately following the Geneva talks, saying the four parties will work to establish a broad national dialogue to ensure protection of Ukrainians' rights.

Moscow has repeatedly insisted it has the right to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. It accuses the new Ukrainian leadership of being anti-Russian and anti-Semitic, and of threatening the rights of pro-Russians.

Secretary Kerry met separately with Lavrov, Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, and the European Union's Catherine Ashton before the joint talks opened.

Pro-Russian gunmen have seized Ukrainian government buildings in nearly a dozen eastern towns and cities, while Ukrainian troops have launched operations to retake the buildings. It remains unclear how much actual fighting has taken place.

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