News / Europe

    Ukraine's PM Offers Concessions to Separatists in Donetsk

    Pro-Russian supporters and an Orthodox priest (front) stand next to a barricade in front of the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine on April 11, 2014.
    Pro-Russian supporters and an Orthodox priest (front) stand next to a barricade in front of the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine on April 11, 2014.
    VOA News
    Ukraine's acting prime minister has offered concessions to regional leaders and pro-Russian protesters, after Kyiv's deadline passed for separatists to vacate state buildings they had seized.   

    Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other top Ukrainian government officials traveled to the city of Donetsk, where they met Friday with eastern Ukrainian governors and mayors, as well as other influential eastern Ukrainian figures, including tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man.

    The acting prime minister said he supported amending Ukraine’s constitution and changing laws to devolve power.
    Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks with local leaders in Donetsk on April 11, 2014.Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks with local leaders in Donetsk on April 11, 2014.
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    Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks with local leaders in Donetsk on April 11, 2014.
    Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks with local leaders in Donetsk on April 11, 2014.
    Such a proposal would mean that regional governors and their administrations would no longer appointed by the central government, and regional referendums would be permitted.

    Addressing another concern of Russian-speaking residents in eastern Ukraine,  Yatsenyuk also promised that no one would be allowed to “limit the Russian language and the right to speak it in Ukraine.”

    It is unclear if such concessions will satisfy the armed pro-Russian militants who stormed government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and other eastern Ukrainian cities this week, demanding Kyiv allow a referendum on independence.

    Latest images from Ukraine
     
    • 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.


    Separatists in Luhansk, who seized the state security building and call themselves the Southeastern Army, showed little signs of backing down from their demands.

    "We demand that the central authorities pass a law within three days on a local referendum and formalise the status of united forces of the Southeastern army as a military unit,'' said Valery Bulatov, a leader, who was quoted Friday by Reuters news agency.

    Kyiv had threatened to use force if the buildings were not cleared by Friday morning. But during his visit Friday, Yatsenyuk said he is optimistic the standoff can be resolved.

    "I would like to state clearly that the central government is not only ready for dialogue with regions, but is ready to fulfill lawful requirements and wishes of all the citizens of our country," he said. "In the framework of the changed constitution, we will be able to satisfy specific requests of every single region."

    Also Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the standoff in the east.

    According to the ministry, Lavrov told Kerry that Washington should use its influence with Ukraine’s government “to prevent the use of force” and encourage Kyiv “to have a dialogue with representatives of the (Ukrainian) regions to create conditions allowing for comprehensive constitutional reform.”

    Recent surveys suggest residents of eastern Ukraine overwhelmingly oppose any move to join Russia.

    Gas

    Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Friday Russia 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." 

    Ukraine's energy minister told parliament Friday that Kyiv hopes to buy gas from
    Europe to shore up its energy security, fearful Russia will cut gas supplies over Kiev's refusal to pay Moscow's soaring prices.
           
    According to Reuters news agency, Yuri Prodan told parliament the European Union would stand in solidarity with Ukraine if Russia reduced supplies, making sure Moscow could not increase flows through alternative pipelines to bypass its former Soviet neighbor.

    Russian troops

    Amid the tensions, 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.

    On Friday, 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.

    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)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)
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    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)
    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)

    The photographs, released to news outlets, follows repeated Russian assurances the deployment is no cause for alarm.  Russia has denied any 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.

    Ukraine's current government came to power following the so-called "Euromaidan" protests that forced the country's pro-Russian leaders from power in February. 

    In late March, Russia annexed Crimea following a referendum in the Russian dominated Black Sea region, a move considered a violation of international law by the EU, U.S. and NATO.

    The United States and the European Union immediately slapped sanctions on key Russian leaders -- and have threatened to add more punitive measures if Putin escalates the crisis.

    The U.S., EU, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to hold four-way talks on the crisis, expected to take place next Thursday in Geneva.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: columbare1 from: florida
    April 12, 2014 2:26 PM
    Ukraine"s authorities instead of trying to evict those who have seized government buildings,should simply put a force around the perimeter of the buildings . Then let nothing go into that perimeter and arrest any one who does not surrender peacefully , cut off the water and electricity,and block any cell phone and land lines and wait the protesters out. It is a siege scenario .

    by: Bill from: Aus
    April 12, 2014 5:49 AM
    Well all I can say is if the USA is packing up and moving out of Afghanistan then it will be looking for war else were. The USA never stops it's peace keeping despite the mammoth casualties of human life doing it. To be a politician and declare war while using the bases they are peace keeping is the absolute best way to keep wars going.
    The problem here is the USA and not Russia, you would think any stupid nit wit would know by now that the US has a passion for ongoing war, but I am sorry to say "unfortunately not".
    Russia is no threat, never has been and never will be, it's what the USA provokes that is deadly. Russia does not need the threat of these powers and is not going to settle with them, that's what is happening here. The west needs to get out of there and stay west.
    To see the politicians of the USA trying to hamper things the way they are is incredible and stupid.
    Russia will become more independent in a very short time frame, so the sanctions are only going to make Russia far more stronger in the future. This is a good thing for everybody but the west will be in possession of nuclear atomic weapons which is a horrible thing. The west has used atomic weapons before so their track record is very bad. We hear about Stalin on the Russian side but we never here about the 60 to 70 thousand people killed by the Hiroshima bomb, or the other 300 to 400 thousand people dying a slow death from being effected with cancers and leukemia from radiation left behind from the atomic weapons the USA government proudly used when under any stress.
    So as you can see we have a very unstable world. Can anybody imagine the USA not staging their own war if nothing was happening ? Honestly is their anybody out there ?
    In Response

    by: Bill from: Aus
    April 13, 2014 12:22 AM
    Re: Bogs
    It's one thing testing military nuclear equipment but totally different to dropping one on a large city of civilians. Especially twice. Something you can say about any weapon.

    What does the rest of the world have to do to end the domination created here, other than build the same things ? Great "way of keeping it in Russia", that's not what is was meant for so why say that ? All what happened here was Russia stepped up it's weaponry to match.
    In Response

    by: Bill from: Aus
    April 12, 2014 11:45 PM
    After watching the un-armed protesters on a live leak video being gunned down by snipers, "civilians being head shot" it's absolutely no wonder Russia responded the way it did as quick as it did. What was happening was not humane and needed immediate action to put a very quick end to it.
    What Russia accomplished so quickly in Crimea was by far the majorities choice, this is how it became annexed so quickly.
    The west can argue all they like about that ! But nothing like that is quick & easy unless the far majority living there wanted it to happen. So 2 major things here.. 1st The Majority living in Crimea wanted the change over right or wrong. 2nd The Ukrainian Government gave the all go to shoot protesters dead.
    In Response

    by: Ukrainian from: Canada
    April 12, 2014 6:08 PM
    Thank you for your great comment.
    The current is a direct consequence of absolutely stupid, rash, irrational and first of all unfair actions of Kiv's illegal actions.
    Disorder was when Nazi in Kiev took Rada by killing 100 people.
    In Response

    by: Boggs from: USA
    April 12, 2014 3:48 PM
    Yeah now there getting 21st century tech and a stable welcome to the 21st century, u can just stay on ur island and forget world politics, at least we care about the planet, we didn't build the tsar bomba, just a means of keeping it in Russia.

    by: henry from: 91006
    April 11, 2014 5:33 PM
    Talking aloud with sanction will make putin scary. Perhaps we need more people at ukraine border with bullhorn to yell at putin, so he will pull his troop back or draw few redlines, a little dark/light red is clearer, to stop him.lol.
    In Response

    by: Ukrainian from: Canada
    April 12, 2014 6:11 PM
    It is not about Putin ... It is Ukrainians who live in East and South Ukraine will never accept this self-elected neo-Nazi government in Kiev. It is ridiculous to watch ''Yatsenyk-PM of Ukraine" doesn't allow people have a democratic referendum..

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    April 11, 2014 2:02 PM
    Rasmussen said the NATO alliance was not discussing military action over Ukraine, but added that it was taking steps to protect its partners effectively. How? This is how they pushed Ukraine into a quagmire, and right now the way out is long way away. What has anyone offered to return Ukraine to compensate for the losses? Nothing but promises and more promises how to protect their own - all in principle, no tangible action. What if Russia is untainted by the threat of sanctions? What if Russia starts threatening like North Korea? A White House statement on Thursday said the United States and its allies are prepared to meet further Russian escalation with additional sanctions. Do you see what I mean - all talking and threat of more talks that can possibly not scratch the back of a superpower like Russia. It's all vain hope and vain promises.

    Russia wants the West to deescalate the crises by... stop its efforts to legitimize Ukraine's pro-Western leaders. Now Ukraine is at crossroads. It has much more troubles to grapple with in the east. The so-called interim PM is afraid to crackdown on protests because he knows what it is capable of bringing on his country. At the long run the status quo shall return, the EU, NATO and USA will settle down with Russia and fashion the way forward, not on Ukraine's terms, not on EU-NATO-USA terms, and not on Russian terms, but on a consensus term.. Ukraine will be reputed for providing the battleground to settle all of this.
    In Response

    by: Иван Венке
    April 11, 2014 11:46 PM
    Russia is saint Russ - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and we'd never, NEVER threatened or would threaten someone or sometime. Russia NEVER led occupation war and if some state tried to war with Russia - they was defeated. Because "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31

    On Putin's question "EU is being united against Russia. Aren't you scared?" - he answered: "We've had deal with united Europe already in 1812 and 1941. That the way they should be scared"

    think about it ;)

    by: mahedi from: bangladesh
    April 11, 2014 1:54 PM
    It is a common scenario which has been seen through out the world history. That is " might is right" We have seen this might of usa used against Iraq, Afganistan, Libya, and many more times.USA along with west did not respect the sovereignty, and independence of those independent country.It is just their( the mighty powers) interest which plays a pivotal role to respect or disrespect other countries' sovereignty.If it is the international law, how anyone can blame Russia for their ongoing acts.Russia is disrespecting Ukraine for its interest and west is respecting Ukraine for their interest too.It is just interest, not humanitism.
    In Response

    by: Suska from: USA
    April 12, 2014 7:21 AM
    True
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 11, 2014 9:29 PM
    You are right lol, spot on. The Ukraine leaders are just too naive to figure that out!

    by: john from: usa
    April 11, 2014 12:34 PM
    This is not an independent news source at all. Believe at your own risk. You have a better chance at learning more truth at NYT.com. Then it is still questionable.

    by: EMMANUEL A. DONSEAH from: Liberia
    April 11, 2014 11:20 AM
    Russia, please try to respect world democracy.
    Ukraine is an independent state. let solve their problem.
    In Response

    by: Vladimir from: Moscow
    April 11, 2014 2:22 PM
    Guys, this resourse don't tell you truth about real situation in Crimea. It's funny to see that "democracy" is very different for all over the world, especially American democracy which now like a dogma. Ukraine people is realy independent people ! They have the right to make a choices what country they are going to live. Let see, first Crimea, after Doneck. Do you really think that all this people were frightened by Russia? It's funny! Millions of people in independent country! And afterwards other regions trying to repeat this way endangered? You are really overestimate Russia.

    by: Miron from: None of your busines
    April 11, 2014 8:24 AM
    The banner of people is "no war with Russia". Press is falsifying separatism of protesters.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    April 11, 2014 9:32 PM
    With a crippling conflict, chaos NATO cannot be content because through anarchy NATO nations go for grabs/exploitation! That is why you read all these rants by NATO nations against Russia! Libya is a good example and Iraq another on what NATO is capable of regarding destruction of nations.

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