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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid