News / Europe

    Germany Hopes Ukraine Talks Defuse Tensions

    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk take part in a briefing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 13, 2014.
    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk take part in a briefing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 13, 2014.
    VOA News
    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Ukraine on Tuesday he hoped “round table” talks between politicians and civil groups this week would help disarm pro-Russian separatists and improve the atmosphere for elections due later this month.
     
    Steinmeier met Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at Kyiv airport before traveling on to the Black Sea city of Odessa, the site of deadly clashes between Ukrainian forces and rebels.
     
    The situation in parts of Ukraine remained "dangerous and threatening," said the German minister, adding that the priority was for as many voters as possible to take part in presidential elections on May 25.
     
    Shooting Leaves East Ukraine Town Shakeni
    X
    Patrick Wells
    May 14, 2014 6:39 PM
    Fresh violence rocked eastern Ukraine Tuesday as Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reported that seven government soldiers were killed in an ambush near the town of Kramatorsk. This news comes just two days after a disturbing shooting by what appeared to have been Ukrainian troops on protesters in the town of Krasnoarmeysk during Sunday's secession referendum. VOA obtained amateur video footage showing uniformed men shooting into a crowd. Patrick Wells reports from Krasnoarmeysk, Ukraine.

    “We also support your efforts to launch a national dialogue, under Ukrainian ownership, here in your country, through round tables, at the central level and in the regions," Steinmeier said at a news conference with Yatsenyuk.
     
    "I hope that under these conditions it is possible to take steps to bring back occupied buildings and eventually to disarm illegal groups and restore the state's monopoly on violence," said the German foreign minister.
     
    Yatsenyuk thanked former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who runs the annual Munich Security Conference, for being prepared to co-moderate the "round table," which Kyiv said may start on Wednesday.
     
    Kyiv has declined to say which groups will join the talks but acting President Oleksander Turchinov has said "terrorists" - meaning the rebels - cannot take part. Moscow says the talks cannot succeed without direct dialogue between Kyiv and the
    separatists.
     
    New sanctions criticized

    Russia said on Tuesday new European Union sanctions will hinder efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and urged the West to persuade Kyiv to hold discussions on the country's future structure before a May 25 presidential election.
     
    The EU imposed sanctions on two Crimean companies and 13 people on Monday in response to Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for Russian-speaking separatists.
     
    The EU had already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48 Russians and Ukrainians, and the United States has also imposed sanctions during the worst crisis in relations between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
     
    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the EU envoy to Russia on Tuesday that the EU sanctions were a "exhausted, trite approach... that will not only not resolve but will deepen differences, hindering the joint search for a way out of the real crisis situation in Ukraine," the Foreign Ministry said.

    Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, said that other countries must share the burden in imposing sanctions on Russia and that any measures should also include the energy and financial sectors as well as defense.

    Fabius, speaking in an interview with CNN on Monday, also suggested France had not ruled out reviewing the sale of warships to Russia - a contract agreed before the crisis in Ukriane broke out.

    The United States has been pressing France, Germany and Britain to take a tougher line against Russia to punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and to dissuade it from intervening in east Ukraine.

    Asked if France was on the same page as the United States, Fabius said: ``I think so, provided that everybody makes the same sacrifices'' - a reference to other nations.

    “It's not sanctions against Europe, but Russia. Let's not forget that,” he said.

    But while EU powers Germany, France and Britain have all threatened tougher action against Moscow if it undermined the May 25 Ukrainian presidential election, they are hesitant to adopt sanctions that could harm their own interests.

    For France, this would mean at least delaying the defense contract. For Britain, closing its mansions and bank vaults to magnates close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. For Germany, it would mean reducing its dependency on Russian gas.

    Declaring independence

    Eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region declared independence Monday and is asking Moscow to consider letting it become part of Russia. The pro-Russian leader of the eastern region of Luhansk also declared that region's independence.
     
    Separatists in both regions say 90 percent voted in favor of breaking away from Ukraine in two separate referendums Sunday. The results cannot be independently verified.

    Ukraine's Foreign Ministry called the elections "clumsy" and said polls by Western and Ukrainian agencies show the vast majority of those living in the east prefer a unified Ukraine.
     
    It accused "pro-Russian terrorists" of intimidating the majority against speaking out, and said a free and fair presidential election on May 25 is its priority.

    The results of self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk "should be a clear signal to Kyiv of the depth of the crisis" in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
     
    Kremlin response

    The Kremlin has stopped short of endorsing independence for the regions or their absorption into Russia but has said the referendums underscore the need for talks between the pro-Western government and separatists from the east.
     
    "Moscow hopes… the EU and United States will use their influence on the current leadership in Kyiv so that issues of state structure and respect for the rights of regions are discussed soon - in any case before the election scheduled for
    May 25," it said.
     
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the Ukrainian election, which the government hopes will increase its legitimacy and control, will not be legitimate if people in the east are not confident their rights will be protected.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity.
     
    “Over the past weeks there has been much violence and little dialogue. I call on all those who have sought to undermine Ukraine’s unity, territorial integrity and stability to immediately cease such actions. The authorities in Kyiv should also continue to respond to such acts with the maximum restraint and within the parameters of Ukrainian law and international human rights principles,” said Ban.
     
    The United States and European Union said they do not recognize the results of Sunday's voting.
     
    White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington is "disappointed" that Moscow did not use its influence to prevent the votes from taking place, after Putin urged the separatists to put off the referendums.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
    May 13, 2014 12:58 PM
    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tries harder now because Germany feels responsible for the current fracas in Ukraine. Yesterday, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder accused Europe of creating the current crisis in Ukraine by pushing Ukrainians to join Europe and cut off Russia, or stay with Russia. That was the 3rd such claim by Western officials - including The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland who has used the "F" word to describe Europe's handling of Ukraine.

    As Europe's heavyweight, Germany now feels that its pushing of Ukrainians to cut off Russia has backfired, and its Foreign Minister tries to save whatever he can as events in Ukraine seem to spell disaster for the pro-European Ukrainians! Unfortunately Europe has grossly miscalculated its ability to sever the Ukrainian-Russian traditional partnership and squeeze Russia's influence into Central Asia only. Now Mr. Steinmeier tries to save Europe's sinking fortunes into Ukraine, but I doubt if Putin would allow Europe to backtrack and save the pro-European Ukrainians.

    If anything, Putin is surely set to teach both Europe and the Pro-European Ukrainians a lesson in respecting Russia. The West has the sanctions on him, but he (pro-Russian rebels) has control on the Eastern Ukraine ground - plus Crime in the bag already. And as the adage says: "Possession is 9/10 of the law." Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 13, 2014 11:00 AM
    QUESTION? -- Has the European Union finally realized that the major obstacle to a peaceful Ukraine solution was the interference of the US government? -- Has the European Union finally decided to take over the Ukraine crisis, and try to find a peaceful resolution that all the Ukraine people can accept? -- (A Ukraine with Autonomous regions, or Independent States?) Whenever the US interferes in another countries politics, (it brings violence, death, destruction, and sometimes war)-- will the European Union takeover and prevent a war? -- (It is a EU problem to fix, isn't it?)
    In Response

    by: Hank from: Mariupol, Ukraine
    May 14, 2014 3:07 AM
    I think Europeans and Americans have almost no chances to learn what is really happening in East Ukraine because of the Wall of Lies made by Kyiv government and its Ukrainian sponsors. We were shoked when on May,9 the National Guard soldiers burnt the Haed Police Office because the policemen refused to shoot the protestants in Mariupol. Later Turchinov said that pro-Russian separatists tried to seize the building and take the weapon. But all people know that it was a mere lie. The policemen kept our city peaceful and they had no conflicts with the DPR. And no Russian or Pro-Russian would ever launch an attak on May,9 - it's a sacred day for all Russians. Moreover the National Guard reported about killing of 20 separatists but nobody had seen them in the building. Then the bodies were burnt by the brave Ukrainian National Guard so that it could be impossible to identify them. They told the media about 7 people dead but that day 146 dead bodies were registered in the morgue of the city. All of them had been either shot or burnt. There are plenty of videos showing Natonal Guard men shooting on unarmed protestants. Those cowards were afraid even of the words of our people. When they heard about a group of " pro-Russian" supporters coming to Mariupopl from Donetck they left their military vehicles, barracs and even ammunition and fled from the city. But the official media have never shown these facts neither they have ever reported about real situation in the region. Why? Who is afraid of truth?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 13, 2014 9:44 AM
    IF ONLY? -- If only the US and the EU had forced the extremists that seized the Ukraine government by force to abide by the Yanukovych "Transition Deal" signed on February 21, 2014...The Yanukovych "Transition Deal" called for constitutional reforms and new elections -- (BUT?) -- the US and EU supported the immediate violent ouster of Yanukovych and the immediate seizure of the Ukraine government by force, leading to this Ukraine chaotic catastrophe? --

    by: gen from: Japan
    May 13, 2014 8:11 AM
    Donetzk region people should attend the meeting in Kiev. and they should talk their autonomy.They should get the right to trade freely with forein countries and have the optional right to veto tax decided by Kiev.And they should make a scheme which they can issue their regional rebuilding bonds on their own.
    Russia might help buy the bonds.And Donetzk should attract Russian capital and investment with lower tax. Doneztk at fast could rebuild their regional industry.

    Russian get back gas money from Kiev. Then Donetzk region absorb the money from Russia.Donetzk is a industrial area.The industries in Donetzk prosper and raise people's wage. Then save foreign currency. Donetzk might be the richest region in Ukraine.After that,Doneztk only have to declare independence from Ukraine. Doneztk separatists should put down guns and wear business suits.Now the separatists, let's get down to business of not a civil war but economic war against Kiev.Russia would support them.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 13, 2014 10:01 AM
    WildWilli from USA is right? -- In the olden days the US just solved (in house) hostile countries problems, by having the UN split them in half, or thirds, or quarters, like North and South Korea, North and South Vietnam, East and West Germany, etc.... (East and West Ukraine?), problem solved?
    In Response

    by: WildWilli from: USA
    May 13, 2014 8:54 AM
    The USA has in the past supported the will of the people. If 90% of the people does not wish to belong to Ukraine, then our policy should be to support the people's wishes. I propose: The two break-away districts should not join Russia but form a separate country of their own together with those other districts that formally voted for the ousted President. Perhaps, this new country should be called East Ukraine. Those districts leaning toward the EU should then be re-grouped and called West Ukraine.

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