News / Europe

    Ukraine Holds National Unity Talks Without Separatists

    • Participants gathered on Wednesday, May 14 for talks on how to quell a pro-Russian rebellion in the east, but Kyiv's refusal to let separatists take part cast doubt on whether the meeting could defuse the crisis in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, May 14, 2014.
    • Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov (center) and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (left) take part in talks aimed at quelling a pro-Russian rebellion in the east, in Kyiv, May 14, 2014.
    • A worker at the state-owned printing house inspects a ballot for the May 25 snap presidential elections with 21 candidates taking part, in Kyiv,  May 14, 2014.
    • Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, head of Ukraine's Central Election Commission, shows a long ballot with names of 21 presidential candidates, at a news conference, in Kyiv, May 14, 2014.
    • Remains of mortar shells are seen near a destroyed Ukrainian army mobile mortar truck in the eastern Ukrainian village of Oktyabrskoe, May 14, 2014.
    • Local villagers collect parts of a destroyed Ukrainian armored personnel carrier. Pro-Russian separatists ambushed Ukrainian troops on May 13, making it the heaviest loss of life in a single clash since Kyiv sent soldiers to put down a rebellion in the country's east, village of Oktyabrskoe, May 14, 2014.
    • A boy plays with a machine gun belt as local citizens collect parts of a destroyed amored personnel carrier, village of Oktyabrskoye village, near Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, May 14, 2014.
    Ukraine Holds National Unity Talks
    VOA News
    Ukraine launched talks Wednesday on national unity without the participation of pro-Russian separatists who are seeking autonomy from Kyiv in the country's east and southeast.

    In opening remarks, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said his government is ready for dialogue. He also insisted, though, that Kyiv will not talk to the pro-Russian gunmen who have seized buildings and killed government troops near the Russian border.

    The talks, which opened 11 days ahead of Ukrainian presidential elections, are part of a "road map" backed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Analysts, however, say the deliberate omission of separatists from the discussions raises doubts about whether the meetings will ease ethnic tensions threatening to rip the country apart.

    Separatists who declared "sovereignty" in two eastern regions this week dismissed the Kyiv talks. Rebel leader Denis Pushilin told The Associated Press that any such dialogue must take place in the east. "If we go to Kyiv, they will arrest us," he said.

    National  lawmakers and regional officials, religious leaders and civic activists are attending the talks, part of a "road map" laid out by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
     
    The OSCE plan calls on both the Ukrainian government and the separatists to refrain from violence. It also seeks immediate amnesty for those involved in the fighting and talks on decentralizing the country's political system and on the status of the Russian language.
     
    But the separatist rebels are not represented, raising doubts about the negotiations’ effectiveness.

    “We haven’t received any offers to join a round table,” Denis Pushilin, an insurgent leader in Donetsk, told the Associated Press. “If the authorities in Kyiv want a dialogue, they must come here. If we go to Kyiv, they will arrest us.”

    On Tuesday, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine killed seven government soldiers in an ambush of a military armored column near the city of Kramatorsk.
     
    On Wednesday, Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-styled "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, the rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine, as saying eight government soldiers had been killed and seven wounded overnight in a battle with rebels outside Slovyansk.
     
    There was no immediate response to the claim from Kyiv.

    'Close to civil war'
     
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday that Ukraine “is as close to civil war as you can get” and that a solution must be found to satisfy all of its regions.
     
    Lavrov said it is "ridiculous" to hold Russia accountable for Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, adding that the vote cannot be legitimate if it is impeded by fighting. He also insisted Russia has “no intention” of sending its troops anywhere.

    Russian news agencies Wednesday quoted officials of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as saying the election will not be held in the two breakaway regions.

    On Monday, a day after referendums on self-rule, separatist leaders declared the two Russian-speaking regions to be independent states. Leaders in Donetsk asked Moscow to consider formally absorbing the region into the Russian Federation. The Kremlin has not yet responded.

    On Wednesday, Interfax quoted Vladimir Karasev, a leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, as saying the two "republics" were forming an "army of the southeast."
     
    Russian troops still at border

    Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday released satellite pictures showing Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, despite assurances from Moscow last week that it had withdrawn its huge military force.
     
    Commercial satellite photos, dated May 9, also appear on NATO's Twitter account.  The pictures show helicopters parked near the Russian border town of Belgorad. A second photo, taken Sunday across the border from the embattled Ukraine city of Mariupol, showed what U.S. officials described as Russian armored vehicles.
     
    After declaring independence, separatist leaders in Donetsk asked Moscow to consider formally "absorbing" the region into the Russian Federation. The Kremlin has not yet responded.
     
    Moscow said Monday that it respects the outcome of the votes. But Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said it expects the pro-Russian "self-defense forces" in eastern Ukraine to "react appropriately" if Kyiv agrees to halt "punitive actions" in the east and withdraw its military forces.

    Mixed messages from Germany

    Europe is partly to blame for the crisis in Ukraine, although this is no excuse for Russian behavior toward the former Soviet republic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy said Wednesday.

    The tone struck by Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democrats (SPD), contrasts with that of conservative Merkel, who blames Russia for exacerbating the crisis, souring ties between Russia and the West.

    "Certainly, the European Union has also made mistakes, although this does not justify Russia's behavior," Gabriel told the German daily Rheinische Post.

    "It was certainly not smart to create the impression in Ukraine that it had to decide between Russia and the EU," said Gabriel, who also serves as economy minister. "But again: That was not and is not a justification to plunge a country into chaos," he added.

    On Monday, Merkel rejected criticism from her SPD predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Schroeder had said Europe's approach toward Ukraine and Russia was one reason for the crisis.

    Gabriel also said an armed conflict must be avoided under any circumstances.

    Putin stresses self-reliance

    Putin said on Wednesday that Russia's defense industry should stop relying on foreign components and should be self-sufficient following Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

    “We need to do our utmost for anything used in our defense sector to be produced on our territory, so that we would not be dependent on anyone...,” he told a meeting of defense officials at his Black Sea residence.

    Washington has threatened to target some high-tech exports to Russia as part of sanctions, in addition to visa bans and asset freezes already in place.

    In an apparent retaliatory move, Russia on Tuesday rejected a U.S. request to prolong the use of the International Space Station, a 15-nation project, beyond 2020.

    Washington wants to keep the space station in use until at least 2024.

    Calling the U.S. and “unrealiable partner,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would also bar Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites.
    Some information for this report provided by Reuters
     

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    Comments
         
    by: gen from: Japan
    May 15, 2014 8:02 AM
    The Kiev government and the separatists is in a stalemate.If they don't talk each other,Some of Russian speaking regions like Doneztk would break away from Ukraine.If the separatists regions don't take part in the upcoming election, then it will have a huge impact to other Russian speaking regions,like Oddesa etc.Some more Russian speaking regions might have referendum and ask Russia to absorb. Some regions would wag wars to and fro.It is not wise.Even Russia couldn't help all Russian speaking regions.more complicated and worse.

    So Russia and OSCE top officials,twe teams, should take the separatists leaders which had held referendum to Kiev to attend the round table in Kiev?
    To disarm the region,there are no option but to meet Kiev government and the separatists. If they were attacked or arrested by Kiev government,then Russia army only have to cross over the border in Ukraine.

    Now it is important time or situation whether or not Ukraine collapse. If Kiev government don't meet the separatists,how would the separatists disarm? or would defeat all separatists by arms ? That is against the Geneva talks and OSCE road map. I think now it is a last chance to recover the govern ace in Ukraine before the upcoming president election in Ukraine. If the separatists hamper the election, Russia would not help the separatists.

    I think that Russian don't hope the upcoming president election is hampered. Russia might consider the separatists a enemy of Russia. If the ordinary Russian speaking minority couldn't take part in the president election,it would damage Russian national interests.

    by: Franko from: France
    May 15, 2014 12:57 AM
    We betrayed Ukrainians. They did two attempts to be part of EU and good friend of USA,but we let Russia tear this country apart and Ukraine almost stands alone to fight with Russia. We betrayed Ukrainians. Nobody will want to have a deal with us in the future.
    In Response

    by: HONG HA from: Vietnam
    May 15, 2014 11:08 PM
    You did not betray Ukraine. You only gave them a chance but they missed it because they failed to persuade the whole population. You should not blame any country for that. The ones who are to blame are those in power in Kiev who have failed to listen to the will of the people in the East.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    May 15, 2014 12:23 AM
    Denis Pushilin is right to say that any such dialogue must take place in the east. If the representatives of the East go to Kiev, they will be arrested and executed by the noe-fascists there. So those in power in Kiev must go to the East to beg for peace. They must not think that when they have occupied the capital they will become Ukraine government.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    May 14, 2014 1:48 PM
    It's all a talk of what the west has doctored, talk about a stooge representing his mentors. What do we expect from these talks? The West wants Ukraine against the dictates of the people of Ukraine. There is an election scheduled for May 25th, why did the west insist Yanukovych must not go to Russia if they believed the Ukrainians actually wanted to go to wild west - would the upcoming election not have been good enough to redirect the course?

    It is because of lack of faith in the western system election that US, EU and NATO insisted on mob action to change the direction. What will the talks achieve, and who are the subjects; who set the agenda of the talks? Why setting preconditions for the talks? It's billed to fail. I do not know if the West is getting to its target of disrupting Russia - which is all the reason it started the trouble. Unfortunately China has failed even as Germany is beginning to be less than its actual self, for rather than play a leading role, it elects to be proxy, perhaps because it lacks faith in itself.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    May 14, 2014 11:27 AM
    Already Yatsenyuk has place unrealistic restrictions on any Ukraine peace talks? -- (And you can bet your last bottom dollar) -- the US will try to sabotage the Ukraine peace process? -- (BUT?) -- he has admitted to his and the US and EU mistakes, hasn't he?

    by: Sergey from: SPb
    May 14, 2014 8:00 AM
    Yatsenyuk is going to talk with himself. What does he hope to solve?

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