News / Europe

    Pro-Russian Separatists Ready for a Showdown

    Armed pro-Russian men guard barricades in front of city hall in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.
    Armed pro-Russian men guard barricades in front of city hall in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.
    Pro-Russian militants and separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine say they are determined to defy the government in Kyiv and maintain their occupation of government buildings in 10 cities across the region.

    The statement was brief from the deputy mission chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is trying to implement last week’s Geneva accord aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis.

    Mark Etherington told journalists he had met with one of the key separatist leaders in the town of Slovyansk, the self-declared mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov.

    “We have just concluded a two-hour meeting with Mr. Ponomaryov, who we
    Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks during his press conference in city hall, Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks during his press conference in city hall, Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.
    x
    Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks during his press conference in city hall, Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.
    Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks during his press conference in city hall, Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 21, 2014.
    understand is one of the leaders of the armed groups in this town," he said. "We discussed whether he and the groups he leads would comply with the provisions of the Geneva statement.”

    The British diplomat also asked about eight detainees being held by the separatists, including a pro-Ukrainian woman activist, the alleged maltreatment in the past few days of the Roma minority in the area and Sunday’s shooting incident. Separatists say six died in a shoot-out with people they say were Ukrainian ultranationalists. Authorities say three were killed in the incident, and that they are investigating it.

    “I am afraid I won’t take any questions now,” Etherington added.

    And with that the diplomat was gone. Journalists were not told whether any progress had been made to persuade pro-Russian militants to leave the government buildings they are occupying and disarm, in accordance with the Geneva agreement reached last week by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.

    But doubts were quickly dispelled when Ponomaryov, a former soldier in the Soviet army who has surrounded himself with heavily armed, masked gunmen, made clear retreat is far from his mind.

    During a menacing news conference, in which he and his aides warned journalists that they are being monitored carefully, Ponomaryov said that until what he calls the Kyiv junta pulls back all Ukrainian security forces from the region, he and his men will continue to occupy government buildings in Slovyansk.

    Like other separatist leaders in the mostly Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, he is adamant that Moscow is not supporting or encouraging the pro-Russian militancy. But he says that in the wake of Sunday’s attack on a checkpoint manned by separatists, he has appealed to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for protection and weapons.

    The Geneva deal provides amnesty for separatist protesters who leave government buildings they have occupied, except for those found guilty of capital crimes. All illegal groups are required to disarm as well. In return, Kyiv promises to transfer more power to regional authorities.
     
    Ukraine’s leaders accuse Russia of instigating the pro-Russian unrest and of infiltrating intelligence operatives into the country to coach separatists. They also allege that Moscow funds the protests. Moscow denies the charges.

    So does another separatist leader in the biggest city in the region, Donetsk, 106 kilometers from Slovyansk. Vladimir Makovich, the speaker of the presidium of the self-styled Donetsk Republic.

    Makovich says he and his men will only hand back the imposing 11-floor regional government building when the government in Kyiv resigns. He says he expects government forces to attack anytime and he is ready for the showdown.

    And it looks like it, with the building being turned into more of a fortress each day.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora