News / Europe

At Ukraine Peace Talks, Eastern Leaders Assail Central Government

In Ukraine, Mixed Expectations for Unity Talksi
X
Al Pessin
May 17, 2014 9:58 PM
Kyiv resumes national reconciliation talks without armed Russian-backed militants, as Ukrainians remain divided on whether the process will yield results. VOA's Al Pessin has more.
VIDEO: Kyiv resumes national reconciliation talks without armed Russian-backed militants, as Ukrainians remain divided on whether the process will yield results. VOA's Al Pessin has more.
VOA News
Lawmakers and officials from eastern Ukraine on Saturday strongly criticized the fledging central government, accusing it of ignoring legitimate grievances in areas of the regions controlled by pro-Russian militias fighting for independence.
 
Last weekend's unofficial referendum in favor of independence for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions "expressed the will of the people," said Valery Holenko, chairman of Luhansk’s regional government, according to the Associated Press.

 
Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk, second from left, participate in peace talks, Kharkiv, May 17, 2014.Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk, second from left, participate in peace talks, Kharkiv, May 17, 2014.
x
Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk, second from left, participate in peace talks, Kharkiv, May 17, 2014.
Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk, second from left, participate in peace talks, Kharkiv, May 17, 2014.
Holenko acknowledged the referendum had no legal standing, but said it had significance as “a protest vote.”
 
The second round of peace talks, in the eastern city of Kharkiv, came hours after Ukraine's election board warned that instability threatens next week's crucial presidential elections and after violence erupted again. A rebel leader seized at a checkpoint near Kharkiv was freed by armed supporters, and gunfire broke out near the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk.
 
No insurgents were invited to the “national unity” talks, brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to defuse Ukraine’s worst crisis since the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse. The insurgents, described by Kyiv as terrorists, say they are willing to discuss only the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops and recognition of the regions' independence.
 
Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk urged the assembled eastern leaders to resist armed separatists and support the central government's efforts to devolve powers to the regions.

Story continues below photo gallery:
  • Pro-Russian gunmen sit on an armored personnel carrier with the words read "Battalion Vostok (East) " as they patrol in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Coal miners sit on a bus after finishing their shift at a coal mine outside Donetsk, Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks to citizens whose homes were ruined by shelling in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Yekaterina Len cries inside the remains of her house damaged by shelling as her grandson stands near her, in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko meets with supporters in the Cherkasy region, central Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian militant defends a front line position with a machine gun, Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 19, 2014. 
  • Residents watch the flames from a damaged gas pipe that was hit by a mortar bomb, during fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian militants, outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 19, 2014. 
  • Pro-Russian militants detain three men they suspect of spying for the Ukrainian government in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, May 18, 2014. 
  • A pro-Ukrainian activist prepares to hoist the Ukrainian flag in the town of Velika Novosyolka, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, May 17, 2014.
  • A masked pro-Russian militant stands behind the barricades at a checkpoint blocking the major highway outside Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, May 17, 2014.

"You have got in your home, in Luhansk and Donetsk, armed terrorists who are funded by Russians and those who fled Ukraine and want to seize our land," Yatsenyuk said, according to the AP. "We're not going talk to robbers and terrorists. They will not be telling the Ukrainian people how to live in our country."
 
He urged the eastern leaders to disarm the insurgents, "regain the power and start a political dialogue."
 
Holenko, Luhansk’s leader, called upon the central government to stop its “anti-terrorist operation” in the east, the AP reported.
 
On Saturday, the Central Election Commission called for Kyiv authorities to take urgent action to ensure security in the east, saying the rebellion could prevent almost 2 million people from voting May 25. It said it couldn’t prepare for the vote in the east because of threats and "illegal actions" by separatists who have taken control of more than a dozen towns and cities since early April.

Rebel leader seized, freed

Also on Saturday, Valery Bolotov, the self-proclaimed governor of Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region, was detained at a checkpoint after returning from Russia, where he’d been treated for wounds from an attack Tuesday, border guards spokesman Oleh Slobodyan said. About 200 armed separatists went to the checkpoint to demand his release, freeing him in a firefight with machine guns and grenades.
 
Separatist leader Valery Bolotov was detained at a checkpoint near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 17. He's shown in photo from May 7, 2014.Separatist leader Valery Bolotov was detained at a checkpoint near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 17. He's shown in photo from May 7, 2014.
x
Separatist leader Valery Bolotov was detained at a checkpoint near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 17. He's shown in photo from May 7, 2014.
Separatist leader Valery Bolotov was detained at a checkpoint near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 17. He's shown in photo from May 7, 2014.
“We are trying to find out whether there are victims,” Slobodyan said.
 
In Andriyivka, a village four kilometers (2.4 miles) from Slovyansk, Ukrainian troops exchanged gunfire with pro-Russian forces determined to protect the village, resident Yuri Shevchenko said.
 
"We will not be pushed out of here,” Shevchenko said. “This is our land, this is our motherland. Our children and grandchildren are living and will continue to live here. Why do they come here, why are they shooting at peaceful people? People can no longer live in Andriyivka."
 
Slovyansk and the surrounding area has seen some of the worst fighting in recent months as pro-Russian militia continued calling for the Donetsk region’s independence from Ukraine’s central government in Kyiv.
 
Despite a month-long offensive, the Ukrainian military has failed to wrest back control of the main industrial regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where rebels have now declared their own independent republics in defiance of Kyiv and the West.
 
A challenging election
 
The West sees the election as crucial to defusing the crisis on Europe's eastern flank and preventing the former Soviet republic from disintegrating further after Russia's annexation of Crimea.
 
But Russia questioned how an election taking place amid fighting could possibly meet democratic norms.
 
"Can elections held amid the thunder of guns really meet the democratic norms of the electoral process?" Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, urging Kyiv to immediately halt "punitive action against its own citizens."
 
It also said the government was using the unity talks "as a cover for aggressive action" and urged Western nations to tell Kyiv to "launch real and not phony work toward national reconciliation."

Pressure from the West
 
But the United States and its allies applied further pressure on Moscow Friday to allow the election to go ahead.
 
In a phone call, President Barack Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande "underscored that Russia will face significant additional costs if it continues its provocative and destabilizing behavior," the White House said in a statement.
 
Obama has already drafted an executive order for sanctions across key sectors in Russia such as banking, energy, defense and mining, adding to punitive measures already imposed by Washington and Brussels.
 
In total, 36 million Ukrainians are eligible to vote May 25 in an election expected to deliver victory to billionaire chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko.
 
The vote was called by the new leaders installed in Kyiv after months of sometimes deadly pro-EU protests that led to the February ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, viewed by many as corrupt and authoritarian.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eduardo Linares-Batres from: Guatemala City
May 17, 2014 2:35 PM
Eastern Ukraine separatists “leaders” are nothing but Putin’s puppets voicing instructed straw-man arguments. They’ll be rewarded for their connivance by being incorporated into the corrupted ranks of the minuscule ruling-clique of Russia/USSR-2.
In Response

by: churbany from: Russia
May 18, 2014 1:45 PM
So called Ukraine's government is nothing but USA's puppets voicing instructed straw-man arguments. It's paid by USA to drag NATO closer to Russia and for suppression of Russian minorities. Any talking about human right abuses abruptly stopped when Russians are abused..
In Response

by: Dmitry from: Russia
May 18, 2014 11:59 AM
You would know. You are the Doctor...from Guatemala.

by: ChristyM from: Canada
May 17, 2014 2:17 PM
"Can elections held amid the thunder of guns ..." Are they kidding? Didn't Russia just say the referendum was legal? I know I heard the thunder of guns. Russia wants it both ways - legal if it favors them, illegal if not. Putin can't stand the idea Ukrainians might want independence from everyone - but closer ties to the EU.

Kiev patriots are BRAVELY struggling towards free and open elections, something pro-Russian separatists are fighting to prevent.

Good luck Kiev!!
In Response

by: Jacklyn Denise from: USA
May 18, 2014 7:36 AM
ChristM, what a bunch of horse-hocky. Are you a Kiev shill? Of course the VOA reporting barely passes muster as most of its facts are straight from the White House. Moscow did NOT say the referendum was "legal", Moscow said the referendum should be "respected". As for Kiev "struggling for free and open elections", it is the cabal in Kiev who with the help of Obama, overthrew an elected President, kicked anti-Maidan members out of Parliament, replaced regional governors, appointed all the presidential candidates and changed the Ukrainian constitution, all without a single vote of the public.......that's neither free, nor fair, nor democracy.

by: meanbill from: USA
May 17, 2014 11:42 AM
LIKE ALWAYS? -- Like Always, the world can see how the US, EU, and NATO interference in the politics of (non-European countries), bring nothing but violence, death, destruction, and sometimes war like in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine? -- (WHY?) -- Why does the US, EU, and NATO always try to solve other (non-European Union countries) political problems by violence, death, and destruction, and sometimes war, instead of by diplomatic means? -- (and try to bring peace?)...
QUESTION? -- Has the US, EU, and NATO ever brought peace to any of these countries they have politically interfered in? -- (ANSWER?) -- NEVER have they brought anything but violence, death, destruction, and sometimes war, (and it continues on to this day), and they continue to blame others for their political interference, causing millions of displaced homeless people, and hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, and destroyed countries, and war !!!
THE WORLD IS WATCHING what the US, EU, and NATO is now bringing to Ukraine?

by: Baldurdasch from: metropol
May 17, 2014 10:35 AM
Oh vapors! the border is "porous', the government is "helpless", the economy is shattered, the Maidan is rosy, the National Guard is deployed, the war is on terrorists, Mariupol has been liberated by the local oligarch, and the rest of the east has bad people stopping the government's tanks from delivering the ballot boxes.

Glorioski what is a new nation to do? When the cavalry isn't coming and nobody except Turchy wants to fight the evil Putin? Certainly not talk to those who seem to be in control.

But make a nice 'special status' for the 'good ones', they've never had one of those before.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs