News / Europe

Donetsk Divided as Ukraine PM Offers More Autonomy

Donetsk Divided as Ukraine PM Offers More Autonomyi
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 12, 2014 12:28 PM
Ukraine’s prime minister has offered greater autonomy to the regions of eastern Ukraine if pro-Russian protesters disarm and leave the government headquarters in the city of Donetsk, which they have occupied since Sunday. The protesters are demanding a referendum on the area's future. Western countries accuse Russia of instigating the demonstrations. As Henry Ridgwell reports from Donetsk, the protests have divided opinion in the city.
Donetsk Divided as Ukraine PM Offers More Autonomy
Henry Ridgwell
Ukraine’s prime minister visited the restive eastern region of Donetsk on Friday, offering local leaders greater autonomy if pro-Russian protesters disarm and leave regional government headquarters, which they stormed on Sunday.

The protesters have demanded a referendum on the region’s future. Western countries accuse Russia of instigating the demonstrations, which have divided opinion in the city of Donetsk.

Pro-Russian protesters at the regional government headquarters have declared a "People’s Republic of Donetsk." They see the new government in Kyiv as illegitimate and reject its authority.
 
Among them is Nikolai Mozhayev.

He said that people have gathered here because they want to separate from the armed coup. Gangsters in Kyiv have seized power in the country, Mozhayev said, and Donetsk and southeast Ukraine want to separate from the mess.

Authorities in Kyiv gave protesters in Donetsk and other eastern cities 48 hours to disarm and leave government buildings. That deadline passed Friday and was ignored.

But Yatsenyuk adopted a conciliatory tone during his visit.

“I believe that we need to tackle this problem only in a peaceful manner. But we have made an offer." the acting prime minister said. "They are to leave the premises of the state administration building, to be disarmed, and we, as the state of Ukraine, can guarantee them that they won't be detained or arrested, but it's up to them to decide.”

So far that offer has not won over the protesters. They view events in Kyiv as nothing less than the overthrow of the government. One man, who did not want to give his name, voiced his anger.

“The people of the Donetsk region, people of Ukraine, are sick of the power that has been imposed on them from the west of Ukraine,” he said.
 
  • A pro-Russian protester whose helmet reads "Donetsk Republic," pickets a building where Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was meeting with regional leaders from eastern Ukraine, in Donetsk, April 11, 2014.
  • Leaders of pro-Russian protesters hold a news briefing inside the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, April 11, 2014.
  • A group of pro-Russian activists warm themselves at a bonfire next to barricades in front of an entrance to the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, April 11, 2014.
  • Motorists watch a Ukrainian military convoy pass by near the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, April 10, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian protesters set barbed wire on a barricade outside the SBU state security service in Luhansk, Ukraine, April 10, 2014.
  • Masked pro-Russian activists guard barricades at the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, April 9, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian activist speaks to other protesters at barricades in front of a security service regional office in Luhansk, Ukraine, April 9, 2014.
  • A masked man stands in front of barricades and Soviet era red and Russian national flags at an entrance to the regional office of the security service in Luhansk, Ukraine, April 9, 2014.
  • Communist lawmakers scuffle with right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) Party lawmakers during a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv, April 8, 2014.
  • A view through a broken window of the regional administration building shows a cordon of Interior Ministry members blocking a group of pro-Russian protesters in Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 8, 2014.
  • Street cleaners sweep away bullet cases as they remove trash and a barricade erected by pro-Russian protesters near a building of the state security service in Donetsk, Ukraine, April 8, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian activists gather behind a barricade with Russian flags in front of the entrance to the regioanl security service office in Luhansk, west of the Russian border, in Ukraine, April 8, 2014.

Also on Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on seven Crimean separatists in connection with Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Among those targeted by the new Treasury Department sanctions was the former vice speaker of Ukraine's parliament, Sergei Tsekov. A U.S. statement said Tsekov facilitated the "unauthorized referendum that paved the way for Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea."

The Treasury Department also sanctioned a Crimea-based gas company, Chernomorneftegaz, that the U.S. says had its assets seized by the Crimean parliament.

Despite the dozens of Russian flags that fly above the government building, none of the protesters openly say that they want to follow the example of Crimea. That region last month voted to join Russia after pro-Russian militias took control of much of the regional government. Russian troops have taken control of Ukraine military bases there.

Outside the barricades, local businessman Eugene says he is against the protest.

"There was one revolution in Kyiv and that was enough for me.” Now, he says, there is "this second micro-revolution" here and it’s ruining the economy.

The protests in Donetsk and other eastern cities have divided the population.

Yatsenyuk did not say what would happen if the protesters reject the government's offer. So far, there is little sign that they are ready to back down and leave.

Gas

As tentions continues in the east, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow  would fulfill its obligations to European gas clients and had no plans to halt deliveries to Ukraine -- a day after warning that supplies to Europe could be disrupted by Ukraine's failure to pay its gas bills.

Putin was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying, "We guarantee fulfillment of all our obligations to our European consumers." 

His comments appeared to aimed at easing concerns in Europe, while also keeping pressure on Ukraine to pay its $2.2 billion debt for Russian gas.

The Obama administration has accused Putin of using gas as a "tool of coercion." 

Russian troops

Also Friday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Russia must withdraw tens of thousands of troops from the Ukrainian border and enter into sincere dialogue with the West.
An image released by NATO on April 10, 2014 that shows tanks and infantry fighting vehicle elements of the Russian Motor Rifle Regiment near Kuzminka, Russia, near Ukraine. (DigitalGlobe/NATO ACO PAO)Rasmussen saiid the alliance was not discussing military action over Ukraine, but added that it was taking steps to protect its partners effectively.

Rasmussen saiid the alliance was not discussing military action over Ukraine, but added that it was taking steps to protect its partners effectively.  NATO on Thursday released aerial photographs showing what it says are 40,000 Russian troops, along with tanks and aircraft massed near the Ukrainian border.

The photographs follow repeated Russian denials of plans to invade eastern Ukraine.

Many observers believe Putin is hoping to keep the new government in Kyiv unstable to scuttle efforts to establish closer ties to the West.

The U.S., EU, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to hold four-way talks on the crisis, scheduled to take place next Thursday in Geneva.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
April 11, 2014 6:06 PM
"Putin is hoping to keep the new government in Kyiv unstable to scuttle efforts to establish closer ties to the West."

This series of events is a larger power play to weaken the Russian Federation, a supplier of energy.

Energy, IS a big part of the "Game of Empires".

Crimea never got a chance to "vote" to join Ukraine, anyhow, it was the USSR's Kruschev who decreed it...

I'm glad they got the chance, finally to vote for self determination, and join Russia, after all, they are overwhelmingly Russian anyways.
In Response

by: Anonymous
April 12, 2014 11:32 AM
Yes everyone should have the opportunity to vote with armed gunmen immediately beside them and no neutral election monitors present.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs