News / Europe

Donetsk Divided as Ukraine PM Offers More Autonomy

Donetsk Divided as Ukraine PM Offers More Autonomyi
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.


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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs