News / Europe

Russia, West Reach Agreement on Easing Ukraine Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a bilateral meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine, April 17, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a bilateral meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine, April 17, 2014.
VOA News
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.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who already are in Ukraine, will be engaged in putting the de-escalation measures into place.
 
Donetsk, UkraineDonetsk, Ukraine
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Donetsk, Ukraine
Donetsk, Ukraine
Kerry warned, however, that so far these plans are just "words on paper" and success will depend on how they are carried out.

At a White House press breifing later, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed caution.

The president said he hopes Russia lives up to the Ukraine agreement, but he added that past practice makes it unlikely.

"I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point," he said. "I think there is the possibility, the prospect, that the diplomacy may de-escalate the situation."

Obama left open the possibility of more sanctions if diplomacy fails.

"We have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation," he said.

Obama said a military option is not on the table.

The president consulted with European allies by phone Thursday to discuss a response to Russia if it does not follow through on its promises.
 
The seven-paragraph agreement reached in London on Thursday 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 said the four parties will work to establish a broad national dialogue to ensure protection of Ukrainians' rights.
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after talks on the situation in Ukraine, in Geneva, April 17, 2014.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after talks on the situation in Ukraine, in Geneva, April 17, 2014.
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after talks on the situation in Ukraine, in Geneva, April 17, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after talks on the situation in Ukraine, in Geneva, April 17, 2014.
Kerry met separately with Lavrov, Ukraine's foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia, and the European Union's Catherine Ashton before the group meeting started.

Moscow has said 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.

But senior U.N. human rights official Ivan Simonvic told the Security Council Wednesday that during two trips to Ukraine in March, his team found no widespread attacks against ethnic-Russians.

Moscow calls the U.N. report biased and unfounded.
 
The tentative agreement could put on hold economic sanctions the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks were fruitless

And that would ease international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy.

Kerry said "there was no discussion" of the removal of immediate sanctions.

'Chilling' reports

Ukrainian and Israeli media are reporting that Jews in the eastern city of Donetsk -- where pro-Russian militants have taken control of government buildings -- were ordered to "register" with those who are trying to force the city to become part of Russia.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoff Pyatt is confirming that "chilling" anti-semitic leaflets in Donetsk appear to be "the real deal."

Kerry also mentioned the reported anti-Jewish incident in eastern Ukraine, and a threat to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Kerry condemned the move. "In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable, it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable," he told reporters.
 
  • A column of combat vehicles with a Russian flag on the front one makes its way to the town of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • A combat vehicle with gunmen on top makes its way through a checkpoint to the town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • A masked gunman guards combat vehicles with Russian, Donetsk Republic and Ukrainian paratroopers, flags and gunmen on top, Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • Local residents bring flowers to place them on armored personnel carriers in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • Masked pro-Russian gunmen attack a photojournalist near combat vehicles flying a Russian flag, in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • An Orthodox icon is displayed on barricades in front of a city parliament in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • A woman cleans up trash in front of an entrance to a city administration building in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • Ukrainian servicemen look at a Ukrainian military jet fly above them while they sit on top of armored personnel carriers in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian Army helicopter flies over a column of Ukrainian Army combat vehicles on the way to the town of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, April 16, 2014.

Lisa Schlein in Geneva and Luis Ramirez at the White House contributed material for this report

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Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Vito T from: USA
April 17, 2014 12:50 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDHU7-8dJ34

According to President Vladimir Putin, they are in fact members of "self-defence groups" organised by the locals who bought all their uniforms and hardware in a shop.

Russian now is the "fascist"!
In Response

by: Jimp from: USA
April 19, 2014 12:52 AM
I just figured out how everyone knows it's Russian Military Special Forces who have been taking over Ukrainian Government Buildings...Behind the mask, special unit modified weapons, and other "military" gear, they wear tennis shoes! I'm waiting for the Obama Administration's graphics on the WMDs so we can spend trillions on a war only to find out like in the Bush Administration the WMDs evidence was manufactured.

by: Anonymous
April 17, 2014 12:15 PM
Millions of digital cameras and a wireless network should be set up immediately. This way the truth can be captured and put on display before the world as well as any international criminal courts. Digital cameras can be one of the best non-lethal weapons.

by: meanbill from: USA
April 17, 2014 11:32 AM
WHY? -- Why can't these grown-up men put their differences aside, and negotiate a Ukraine constitution that (all) the citizens of Ukraine can accept, instead of making girly threats and silly accusations? -- (WHY?) -- All the blustering in the world, won't bring an end to the Ukraine crisis, and the (28) countries of NATO has become the most militaristic bully of the world, (demanding other countries do what they want), instead of negotiating with them__ and instead of trying to find a peaceful solution, NATO uses missiles, bombs and bullets...
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
April 17, 2014 10:49 PM
Twenty-eight (28) NATO nations??? Meanbill, you must have totally missed the 100 (ONE HUNDRED) nations members of the UN who condemned the actions of Russia in Ukraine. Russian propagandists like yourself can never seem to get the numbers and the details straight. Those 100 nations said that RUSSIA is the militaristic bully of the world. So why are you still stuck in the Russian propaganda twilight zone???
In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
April 17, 2014 12:23 PM
The power holding gang of Ukraine now has to sign their death warrants and receive the so called US non-leathal assistance. One must ask, for whom is this so called non-leathal aid being received? It is obvious that this is an indirect way of supporting the Keiv Power holding gang to start killing their own people. The Eastern Ukraine remains Ukraine. But, if any non-sense from the Keiv Power holding gang, then Russia Must intervain. This is a fact!

by: JTB from: U.S
April 17, 2014 9:02 AM
Russia instigates and backs east Ukraine Russian speaking trouble makers. Ukraine along with the UN retaliate. Russia sends troops to "protect" Russian speaking people. Quick battles ensue. EU and U.S. don't want war, let Russia take Ukraine. Ukrainian nationals eventually resent, wreaking havoc via homegrown terrorist methods, re: Georgia II. Does that idiot Putin think that he will ever have peace there?

by: Susanne Fairchild from: Zurich
April 17, 2014 8:52 AM
The US says it will look for any signs that Russia is reducing the tension level??? This is a bit absurd. It is the US that has done everything possible to escalate the level of tension through its infantile rhetoric and proclamations. Does the US president think for a second that everyone does not realise this? It is this sort of disingenuous, and transparently dishonest characterisation of events that make people cringe when they hear the US speak in any public political or commercial forum. The days are long past when the US could assume that the rest of the world was naive enough to buy this silliness.
In Response

by: IrrateRick from: China
April 18, 2014 1:30 AM
I see, so American diplomats are being infantile while Russian diplomats and Duma members are being adult, sober, and reasonable? I don't think they're cringing in Kiev, Warsaw, Prague, or the Baltic state capitals at the moment but of course you don't need to worry, all tucked away cozy in Switzerland.
In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
April 17, 2014 10:57 PM
Suzanne,
Do you realize that 100 nations of the UN say that you are wrong and only 10 UN members (including North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and other similarly enlightened nations) say that you are right??? You are on the losing end of this dispute.
In Response

by: Tatarewicz from: Canada
April 17, 2014 10:45 PM
@Susanne: US watch-dogging may be silly and disingenuous but it is a necessary dance US politicians, especially Congress, must perform in order to be assured of vital "Jewish" organizational, financial and media support at election time. Israel wants to the West to give Putin a rough time for trade dealing with Israel's enemies and for banishing Russia's Jewish oligarchs from politics to prevent them from siphoning Russia oil and other wealth to prop up Israel.
In Response

by: Jay Sigler from: Edgartown, MA
April 17, 2014 3:55 PM
Adolf Hitler went into nearby Austria to protect the German population in nearby Czechoslovakia, leading to the dismemberment of that state prior to the beginning of World War II. The Ukraine does sound like very a familiar dictatorial land grab. And the West stood by and let Hitler get away with it. Also familiar.
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