World News

Putin Calls on Separatists in E. Ukraine to Postpone Secession Referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone a referendum on secession set for Sunday.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday after meeting in Moscow with the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Didier Burkhalter), Mr. Putin said he was making the request in order to "create the necessary condition for dialogue" with the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Putin accused Kyiv authorities of taking power in a "coup" and failing to disarm radical right-wing elements and nationalists. But he said he wanted to see the crisis resolved as soon as possible -- "taking into account the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, no matter where they live."

Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk have said they plan to hold a referendum on Sunday (May 11) asking residents whether they favor an independent "Donetsk People's Republic."

A separatist leader (Denis Pushilin) told the Reuters news agency that a "people's assembly" would discuss Mr. Putin's request to delay the vote -- adding that they have the "utmost respect" for the Russian president.

In another apparent change in tone, Mr. Putin gave a qualified endorsement of Ukraine's presidential election set for May 25, calling it "a movement in the right direction." However, he added that the vote will solve nothing if "all of Ukraine's citizens do not understand how their rights will be guaranteed" after the election.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that if Moscow interferes with the election, the United States will impose more sanctions that will further hamper the Russian economy.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested the legitimacy of the election is in doubt because of Kyiv's military operation against pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

In his press conference Wednesday, President Putin called on the Ukrainian authorities to immediately cease what he called "all military and punitive operations" in southeastern Ukraine

He also insisted that Russian military forces have been withdrawn from the Ukrainian border.

After Mr. Putin made his comments, a NATO official told VOA that the Western military alliance has "no indication of a change in the position of (Russian) military forces along the Ukraine border."

Meanwhile, skirmishes between Ukrainian government forces and armed pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine continued Wednesday.

Ukrainian security forces in Mariupol drove armed separatists out of the city council building. However, Western media reported that the Ukrainian forces abandoned the building later after a crowd of pro-Russian militants gathered outside.

The two sides also exchanged fire in a battle for control of a television in Andreyevka, just outside the city of Slovyansk, a rebel stronghold. According to the Ukrainian government, security forces killed 30 separatist fighters in Slovyansk in a battle earlier this week.

Ukraine's Security Service said Wednesday that 14 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed at 66 wounded since the offensive was launched in mid-April.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's central bank announced that it had received over $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The money is the first part of a $17 billion loan package.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs