News / Europe

Pro-Russia Separatists Reject Amnesty Offer in Ukraine Standoff

NATO Warns Russia to Pull Back in Ukrainei
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Jeff Seldin
April 10, 2014 11:56 PM
NATO is again warning Russia against escalating tensions in Ukraine and along the Ukrainian-Russian border. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.

Related video report by VOA's Jeff Seldin

VOA News
Armed pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk rejected Kyiv's offer of amnesty for those who seized government buildings this week and called on others to defy the pro-European government in Kyiv.

Protesters wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and other guns inside the security building in Luhansk, a former KGB headquarters, said they would only lay down their weapons if Kyiv agreed to hold a referendum on the future of the region.

“We demand concretely a referendum on federalization so that the will of the people is heard,” said Aleksei Kolekin, one of the protest leaders barricaded in the five-story building said.
 
The demands, which echo the steps taken in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea before it declared independence and was annexed by Russia, have been rejected by Kyiv, which says the occupations are part of a Russia-orchestrated plan to dismember the country.

The U.S., too, has accused Russia of stoking the unrest.

Pointing to "overwhelming evidence" of Moscow's involvement, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a congressional panel Wednesday the building seizures in eastern Ukraine were "very carefully orchestrated, well-planned, well-targeted" moves. She warned of consequences if the "aggressive actions" go unchecked.
 
  • 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.

US and Germany commend Ukraine's efforts

President Barack Obama spoke Thursday with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel about the situation in eastern Ukraine. Both leaders again called for Russia to move its troops back from the border region.

They also discussed issues relating to the forthcoming meeting of the Ukrainian, Russian, and U.S. foreign ministers and EU High Representative, commended the Ukrainian government’s efforts to move forward on constitutional reform, decentralization, and democratic elections and emphasized the importance of the international community’s strong financial support for Ukraine

Planned 'quartet' meeting

In an effort to de-escalate the situation, top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the U.S. hope to hold talks in Geneva next Thurday, European diplomats say.

Moscow has said it wants to know more about the agenda for such a meeting, and while no more details were immediately available, EU diplomats said the talks will go forward.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will brief most of the bloc's foreign ministers on the talks on Monday, said the diplomats, who declined to be named.

“We need to keep the channel for dialogue open, even as we consider further sanctions,” one diplomat said. “The solution to the crisis is through negotiation.”

Both the EU and the U.S. have already imposed targeted sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone this week that the four-way talks must focus on fostering dialogue among Ukrainians and not on bilateral relations among the participants.

NATO unveils satellite images

NATO today released satellite imagery showing details of the some of the 40,000 troops it says Russia has massed along its border with Ukraine.

The images include pictures of long lines of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft.

NATO has spotted Russian forces at more than 100 different sites close to Ukraine’s border, said an alliance official.

An official in the Russian military general staff said on Thursday that the images released by NATO were taken in August 2013, state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Earlier Thursday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Russia to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border if it wants to start dialogue over the crisis there.

Speaking during a visit to Prague, he said that any further military action by Russia would lead to grave consequences and severe economic sanctions.

Moscow dismissed Western concerns as “groundless,” and said Rasmussen was being confrontational and not offering “any constructive agenda” for Ukraine.

“The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to NATO members and to strengthen demand for the alliance... in the 21st century,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Putin calls for gas talks

President Vladimir Putin has told European leaders a dispute over Ukraine's $2.2 billion gas debt to Russia could affect supplies of Russian gas to Europe and proposed urgent discussions on the matter.

In a letter, Putin said that Ukraine's growing debt and non-payment is forcing Russia to institute an "advance payment" system for gas delieveries.

Acknowledging the exreme nature of the measure, Putin warned that it "increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine's territory and heading to European consumers," said Putin.

Calling for urgent consultations on the matter, Putin said that Russia was willing to do its part to stabilize and restore Ukraine's economy, however, "not in a unilateral way, but on equal conditions with our European partners."

Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday said it condemned Russian efforts to use energy as a “tool of coercion” in its dispute with Ukraine, criticizing the current price Moscow charges Kyiv for natural gas as inflated and higher than for European customers.

“We condemn Russia's efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday.
 
She also pledged U.S. support for Kyiv.

“The United States is taking immediate steps to assist Ukraine, including the provision of emergency finance, technical assistance in the areas of energy security, energy efficiency, energy sector reform,” said Psaki.

Russia suspended from Council of Europe

Russia was suspended from the parliamentary assembly of European human rights watchdog the Council of Europe on Thursday, in protest over Moscow's behavior towards Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The 18 Russian parliamentarians who were suspended will not be able to vote in the 318-head assembly, have representation in its main committees or take part in its election observation missions.

But the body, whose members come from 47 European states, stopped short of withdrawing the Russian delegates’ rights for good, arguing that would not help efforts to resolve the biggest crisis between the West and Russia since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Torture alleged in Crimea

A Ukrainian activist said on Thursday he was abducted and tortured by a pro-Russia group in Crimea in an 11-day ordeal before being released in a prisoner swap last month.

Andriy Shchekun spoke to reporters in Vienna on the sidelines of a conference on torture hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation's human rights arm, after being introduced by U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer.

Shchekun said his captors had stripped him naked, shot him with air guns, beat him, attached electrodes to his body and threatened to cut off his ear as the price for getting back a cross he was wearing when snatched on March 9.

Mikhail Sheremet, commander of the Crimean “self-defense” force that Shchekun claims to have been tortured by, said he had not heard of the case and dismissed accusations of torture as "complete nonsense."

Some reporting by Reuters.
 

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Comments
     
by: Popsiq from: Buganda
April 11, 2014 8:23 PM
Victoria Nuland is commenting on Russia's fomentg something in the Eastern Ukriane? Would that be comparaable to orchestrating something as she did to in 'appointing' the 'revolutionary government' these 'extremists' are ignoring?

What is Victoria Nuland still doing in Ukraine?


by: b from: c
April 11, 2014 7:11 PM
Lol to the comments


by: Joseph Effiong from: Uyo - nigeria
April 11, 2014 2:59 AM
Why should Ukraine even grant this Russia's sponsored magot amnesty. Russia should note that if they start war with Ukraine, it will not be a war between russia and Ukraine but a war that will involved the USA and EU. As the world is telling russia to withdraw it army, it pays deaf ear. The glory of Soviet has buried and can never be resurrected. I am urging USA to complete the 27 Liquefaction company to help transfer gas to west and this will crippled russia's gas , because this gas make russia to make unnecessary noise.

In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
April 13, 2014 5:31 PM
Funny Tom, Ukraine has been doing business with west for how many years? More than 20years, right? Why it's still poor? Stop blaming some one else for your own corruption and stupidity.
No one force you to sell grains only to Rissia, no one forces you to buy Russia's gas.
Ukrianians have their right to choose their path through referendum. If local Ukrainians want to be part of Russia, then you must allow them, it's called freedom!

In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
April 12, 2014 12:38 PM
To: cc from Moscow
The USA does not need Ukraine, but the people of Ukraine need Ukraine. It cannot be owned by Russia taking all of Ukraine's resources. Ukraine has been Russia's breadbasket, providing food crops. Russia can trade its gas to Ukraine for Ukraine's food. But Russia wants all of Ukraine's resources for free - paying nothing and leaving Ukraine's people poor - robbed of their resources. And most important, Ukraine wants its political freedom - picking its own leaders and planning its own future - not simply accepting Putin's dictates on all matters.

In Response

by: cc from: moskow
April 11, 2014 10:20 AM
Russia does not need Ukraine. Seems that USA does. Russia does not need war. Seems that USA does. Even EU doesn't. If - hypotetically! - there is war, it's only USA who will have to protect themselves (and Ukraine, an american whore). Ukraine has been fed by Russia. Now the country which is of no good without Crimea wants to be fed by USA. But I'm not sure USA or EU would like to feed it as we have done: low prices for gas, job, etc.


by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
April 11, 2014 12:46 AM
Great! Pro Russia is doing the same thing pro west did in Kyev.
I said early violent root only bears violent fruits!
Ukrainians are harvesting what they sow.
It's a good slap on Obama s face! And don't turn around to China try to find back your face, we gonna slap you even harder!


by: nathan from: usa
April 10, 2014 4:41 PM
Russia trying to start a war..... I say we go in as peacekeepers and let russia know that we are doing it so it's on them to tell the actors who are protesting to not fire on us.... then when they do.... Shoot back. Putin jails anyone who disagrees with him and then acts like everyone who has said something bad is only mad because they're in jail... i.e. Pussy Riot

In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
April 13, 2014 5:37 PM
Tom, you are funny, how do you know we Chinese don't support Putin? I am telling you, Putin is far popular in China than Obama.
We didn't veto the resolution because we knew Russia would do it. And don't forget, none of BRICS support the UN resolution against Russia. America is weak, Europe is dying, BRICS is the future! Wake up! Don't mess up with China and Russia union!

In Response

by: Tom Murphy from: Northern Virginia
April 12, 2014 12:56 PM
To: fish from USA
China did not vote in support of Russia in the UN General Assembly vote on Crimea. Russia was beaten and sent home by the Afghan Mujahadeen. Russia's population is about half of the population of the USA and is decimated by alcoholism and drug addiction. Russia is in no condition to fight a war against NATO. Its not the USSR with all the eastern European satellite nations on call for troops. Poland is now part of NATO and has more advanced tanks than Russia and has F-16 fighter jets and a long memory of Russian occupation. Other new NATO members have a similar history. Putin, you don't want to start a fight with them and the USA. Eastern Europe knows you too well.

In Response

by: Fish from: USA
April 12, 2014 12:24 AM
@ joshua43214

First of all...
Your completely fantastical comments about how US & NATO will "crush" russia. Sound to me like a threatening bluster.
You must be confusing Russia with some third world country.
Not to mention that it's America that doesn't have the resources OR THE WILL to get it on with Russia. Russia is defending it's homeland and it's people...While America is defending nothing more than corporate interests. Redirecting forces to try and "save" LOL. Ukraine would mean losing control of the last few Nations it has subverted and overthrown. Also a war of this magnitude would cause the rest of the world to take sides. And the truth is America doesn't have too many friends. What she has is reluctant partners who have no choice to be her ally or suffer the economic screws getting turned on them. Politicians don't fight wars, people do. And people don't care for America.

Secondly...
The fact that you used this opportunity to immediately take a shot at Obama pretty much exposes you as part of an America demographic who is severely misinformed and possibly delusional. That or you are one of the soulless, paid agents of right wing, played propaganda machine. Either way you've revealed your biased agenda (as opposed to being on the side of equality and justice) and deemed your comment to be nothing more than worthless rabble bluster.

In Response

by: joshua43214 from: USA
April 11, 2014 6:42 PM
Russia can not afford war, and it will back pedal faster than you can imagine if it came to war. Russia would be crushed by a US led NATO, but Putin knows that Obama makes Carter look like a strong president and would not even go to war if Russia did this to Poland even though we would be obligated too.

@cc most folks agree that Pussy Riot behaved poorly. Most civilized countries would toss them in a local jail for a few days, fine them, and make them perform community service. Their sentence was grotesque.
@Earl A person in America can be arrested with out charge but must be released with in a very short time if not charged. Coerced statements of any kind are not permitted, and can not even be mentioned in court (we are the country after all that invented the "5th"). I agree our government spies on us. Our taxes mostly go to the needy, government spending is open to the public, you can easily verify this. Yes, we do give monies to other countries.
@Fish The Chinese and the Russians are far from bosom buddies, it is doubtful they would pitch in to help Russia. China can't go to war against the US, because we could then legally stop paying our debt to them. They would lose a huge piece of income, and we would free up funds to mobilize.

In Response

by: cc from: moskow
April 11, 2014 10:29 AM
as concerns Pussy Riot it's not Putin only who wanted them to be jailed. Don't you want the people who dared to act like that in a cathedral, a saint place, to be jailed? 90% of Russian citizens agree with Putin.

In Response

by: Earl from: Spain
April 11, 2014 4:03 AM
U.S. can go it and call it peacekeeping, but Russia can't?
As usual, U.S. is being two-faced and foolishly aggressive.
In the U.S. a person can be assested and held without being charged. Torture can be used and statements made under torture used against one. Your government spies on you and gives your tax dollars to the rich of U.S. and other countries.
I am neither Russian nor American, but I would not want to live in the U.S.

In Response

by: Fish from: USA
April 11, 2014 3:49 AM
LOL young man from America.... i.e. Grossly misinformed

America only stands up to third world countries much weaker than itself. She can't do anything to Russia because to fight Russia is to fight China and then who would finance the war?

When the cold war ended nearly 30 years ago America had an opportunity to lead the world. It squandered away all it's good will being a bully and a whore. Now the seeds she has planted over the last thirty years are coming to age.

She has been back sliding and double dealing with everyone.
Her economy is an illusion, Her main export is an illusion.
She is a joke. Russia knows this. China knows this. Korea knows this. And the millions upon millions of disenfranchised working class around the world know this. Everyone except the foolish, indoctrinated American knows this. Get ready for the future my brother. :)


by: meanbill from: USA
April 10, 2014 9:09 AM
Finally the news media is calling Turchynov by his right title, "Acting President of Ukraine" and what official authority in that position that he has, is provided by the neo-Nazi, Right Sector, and ultra-right-wing Ukraine extremists, that ousted the Democratic elected President, the Parliament, and seized by force the Democratic government of Ukraine, and it's clearly illegal.. By clubs, knives, baseball bats, and guns, violence and murders, the neo-Nazi, Right Sector, and ultra-right-wing Ukraine extremist (appointed) Turchynov "the acting President of Ukraine" .. (and he and his thugs, are ordering the citizens of Ukraine, who won't accept him as acting President, on what they want done?)

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