News / Europe

Putin Urges Separatists in Ukraine to Postpone Referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter, at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 7, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a joint news conference with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter, at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 7, 2014.
VOA News
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on separatists in east Ukraine on Wednesday to postpone a referendum on secession for the mostly Russian-speaking region and said Moscow had withdrawn troops from the border with Ukraine.

By potentially forestalling a dismemberment of Ukraine, Putin's comments appeared to open a way to easing the East-West standoff over Russia's role in the country's crisis.

The pro-Russian separatists behind the referendum said they would consider on Thursday whether to postpone Sunday's vote.

Putin said he issued the call in order to "create the necessary conditions for dialogue."

Reacting to the appeal, the White House said the referendum should be canceled altogether, not merely postponed.

Related video report by VOA's Meredith Buel:
 
Putin Calls for Delay of Secession Referendumi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Meredith Buel
May 08, 2014 1:04 AM
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession Sunday. Putin's call comes during a vigorous debate within the United States over whether additional sanctions should be slapped on Russia. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

In another suprise announcement, Putin added that Russians troops that had been placed near the border with Ukraine had been withdrawn.

But the Pentagon says it has not seen any signs of troop movements. NATO and Ukrainian officials say they, too, have seen no evidence of any withdrawal.

The White House said it would welcome a pull-back.

“We would certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal of Russian military forces from the border. That's something that we have sought for quite some time," said a spokesperson, adding that there has been no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place.

In another reversal, Putin said that presidential elections in Ukraine, scheduled for May 25, would be "a move in the right direction."

He made his comments after talks with the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who said the security and rights body would soon propose a “road map” to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk dismissed Putin’s appeal for a postponement of the referendum, describing it with a term equivalent to “hot air.” He also questioned why the issue of Ukraine was being discussed without Kyiv’s participation.

People's Assembly

A pro-Russian separatist leader said the separatists would consider Putin's call to postpone their referendum at a meeting of their self-proclaimed People's Assembly on Thursday. "We have the utmost respect for President Putin. If he considers that necessary, we will of course discuss it," Denis Pushilin said in Donetsk, a city of 1 million people that the rebels have proclaimed capital of an independent "People's Republic of Donetsk".

Since a pro-Russian president was ousted in an uprising in February, Putin has overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy by proclaiming the right to send troops to Ukraine and seizing and annexing Crimea.

A rebellion in the east has raised the prospect that Ukraine, a country of around 45 million people the size of France, could be carved up or even descend into civil war, pitting Russian-speaking easterners against pro-European Ukrainian speakers in the West.

Residents in areas held by the pro-Moscow rebels were stunned by Putin's remarks at a time when the region seemed to be hurtling towards inevitable independence and a week of bloodshed had brought animosity towards Kiev to a fever pitch.

"Maybe Putin doesn't understand the situation? There is no way this referendum isn't happening," said Natalia Smoller, a pensioner who has been bringing food to rebels manning a roadblock in Slaviansk, a town turned into a fortified redoubt where fighters withstood a government advance this week.

Nevertheless, experts predicted the separatists would heed Putin's call to stand down for now. "Among those confronting Ukrainian troops, a certain logic should prevail under which they understand that without the support of Russia and thereby the Russian army, they could be subjected to heavy military strikes," said Yevgeny Minchenko, a political analyst friendly to the Kremlin.

Russian share prices surged after Putin's remarks, seen as reducing the likelihood of damaging new sanctions. The MICEX index shot up 3.64 percent.

NATO again warns Russia

Despite President Putin’s surprise statements on the secession vote in east Ukraine and supposed Russian troop withdrawals, NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Moscow on Wednesday to stop supporting separatists in Ukraine and scale back troops from Ukraine's border to create a base for political solution to the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Speaking after a meeting with Poland’s foreign and defense ministers, Rasmussen said NATO was not able to confirm a withdrawal of Russian troops.

“Russia should live up to its international commitments and stop supporting separatists and scale back troops from the border, so political solutions can be found,” he told reporters in Warsaw.

Rasmussen added that, if needed, NATO will not hesitate to take all necessary steps to increase the security of its allies in central and eastern Europe, which may include reinforced exercises, reviewed defense plans and a proper deployment of troops.

Ukraine fighting

Ukrainian forces seized the rebel-held city hall in the eastern port of Mariupol overnight, driving out pro-Russian militants, then withdrew, making no apparent attempt to hold on to the building, witnesses said on Wednesday.
Armed pro-Russian rebels stand guard outside the town hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 4, 2014.Armed pro-Russian rebels stand guard outside the town hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 4, 2014.
x
Armed pro-Russian rebels stand guard outside the town hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 4, 2014.
Armed pro-Russian rebels stand guard outside the town hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 4, 2014.


Ukraine's Channel 5 television said earlier Wednesday the Ukrainian National Guard had seized the administrative center in Mariupol, a mainly Russian-speaking city of nearly 500,000 people and key component in the self-declared breakaway People's Republic of Donetsk that had announced plans to hold a referendum on secession Sunday.

Pro-Russia separatists reported that five of their activists were killed in skirmishes Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday there were reports of clashes in the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk, as Ukrainian troops advanced on rebel positions.

Ukraine elections

On May 25, Ukrainians plan to hold presidential elections in hopes of stabilizing the volatile situation in their country. The vote is to formally replace president Viktor Yanukovych, who in February fled Kyiv for Russia amid mass protests against his government. Ukraine has since been led by an acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the U.S., in coordination with the European Union, will impose broader sanctions against Russia if it attempts to sabotage the election.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said on Wednesday Washington is working with others to ensure that sanctions will cost Moscow dearly if it does not change its tune on Ukraine.

Briefing journalists in Paris during a tour of European capitals, Cohen said: “We are moving in a strong and systematic way to maximize the cost on Russia ... while minimizing to the extent possible the spillover on other economies, including those here in Europe.”

Kyiv and the West believe Russia is in large part financing and choreographing the separatist violence in east Ukraine in an effort to destabilize the country because of its new government's pro-Western course.

Moscow denies that it has a hand in Ukraine's unrest. It has previously also put into question the legitmacy of the planned presidential elections saying that no fair poll can be held when Ukrainian troops are being used against "the country's own citizens."

Kremlin clarifies

Elaborating on President Putin's suprise endorsement of presidentail elections in Ukraine, the Kremlin has outlined conditions under which Moscow would condone the poll, just hours after the Russian leader also called on separatists in east Ukraine to put off a referendum on secession.

The Slon.ru website quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday as saying that if supporters of "federalization" in eastern Ukraine heed Putin's call to postpone the referendum, and if Kyiv halts its military operation against pro-Russian activists and moves to begin a "dialogue," then the Ukrainian presidential election set for May 25 can legitimately be held.  

Peskov added that the Kremlin is not negotiating with Kyiv authorities, and that Putin's proposal to postpone the plebiscite is "not a step towards Kyiv, but a step towards all Ukrainian people," the website reported.

Economic wrangling

Also on Wednesday, the Kremlin said many U.S. companies were coming under pressure not to attend an economic forum that is hosted by President Vladimir Putin and widely seen as Russia's counterweight to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

The May 22-24 St. Petersburg Economic Forum is usually attended by chief executives of large U.S. firms, as well as heads of other international companies, but the U.S. government has said it would not be appropriate for them to attend this year because of the crisis in Ukraine.

The Forum aims to showcase Russia as a place to invest but has not always succeeded in persuading executives worried by red tape, corruption and poor legal protection.

Separately, President Barack Obama gave the U.S. Congress official notice on Wednesday that he plans to pull Russia from a program that allows duty-free imports of certain goods, known as the Generalized System of Preferences, the White House said.

Russia is "sufficiently advanced economically" and no longer needs the special treatment, the White House said.

EU reaches sanctions deal

European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Wednesday to expand the legal criteria for targeting individuals and companies with sanctions meant to pressure Russia over Ukraine, opening the way for new listings as soon as Monday, diplomats said.

The decision, which should make it easier for the EU to target Russian companies, has to be formally approved during a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

“We have political approval, and it will have to be rubber-stamped,” one diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Two other diplomats also said senior EU officials were due to discuss specific names of potential targets later on Wednesday.

The EU has already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48 Russians and Ukrainians over Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

Warsaw snubs Kremlin

Poland on Wednesday awarded a prize for championing democracy and human rights to Mustafa Dzhemilev, a leader of the Tatar community in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula who says he was barred from the region after Russia annexed it.

“He is a defender of Ukraine's integrity,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, as he announced Dzhemilev had been awarded the prize. “He is someone who, together with his people, has demonstrated that democracy is possible.”

Tatars are a Turkic-speaking Muslim community who make up about 12 percent of Crimea's two million-strong population. Many Crimean Tatars oppose a return to Moscow's control, especially as they were persecuted during Soviet rule.

The choice of laureate for the inaugural “Solidarity Prize” is likely to irk Russia.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.
 

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: gen from: Japan
May 07, 2014 10:58 PM
Mr Putin is right.As I thought the president of Russia.Pro russian should not listen to noise from West.They should find or choose a man or a woman which become a negotialtor on behalf of Pro russian and
has a potentially oft the president in Ukraine.On top of that ,he or she had better have a pipe with West.And soon Start the negotiate with the interim government in Kiev.
But who is the right person?
Uuum.still Mr Putin? Should ask him to change his nationality to Ukraine for a while? No way?


by: Wiktor Protsenko from: Kyiv
May 07, 2014 3:43 PM
In its unannounced war against Ukraine, Russia relies on covert operations which fall squarely within the definition of "international terrorism" under 18 U.S.C. § 2331.
Specifically, armed operatives of Russia, acting under disguise, attempt to influence the policy of Ukrainian government by intimidation or coercion. They also try to affect the conduct of a government by assassinations and kidnapping, taking by force government buildings, police posts and military bases of Ukraine.
This activity is being conducted on large scale and over prolonged time period, despite condemnation by the USA, G-7, NATO, EU and UN.
Please sign the petition urging the White House to officially designate Russia as "State sponsor of terrorism” - http://wh.gov/lwuL9
Such status of country would outlaw business of American companies with Russia. Even considering of the petition by Senate and President of USA creating great inconvenience Russian authorities.


by: Anonymous
May 07, 2014 2:52 PM
It's too bad Putin didn't act flawless and peaceful, it would only make Russia stronger, by promoting peace and democracy.


by: meanbill from: USA
May 07, 2014 11:20 AM
SEE, Putin is a man for peace, while the US and EU support coup led Kiev leaders in using violence against their own people? -- Could it be that a secret deal has been worked out with the US and Russia? Putin studied "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, "Know your enemy, and know yourself, and you can win a hundred battles without losing a single man." --- CRIMEA? - what's next?

In Response

by: Anonymous
May 07, 2014 2:57 PM
Promoting peace is one thing, it isn't done by harassing and taking over other peoples country illegally. It only makes matters worse. But inaction like the inaction in Syria while bashar al assad murders many tens of thousands of civilians is also making things worse however.

In Response

by: Good Sheperd from: USA
May 07, 2014 12:55 PM
The goal is peace, prosperity. and security for men, women and children of Ukraine. We have a window of opportunity now. Let's stop the blame game and move forward for peace. The people of Ukraine deserve nothing less.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid