Pro-Russian Forces Ignore Agreement 04/19 09:40
Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on Saturday prepared to celebrate
Orthodox Easter at barricades outside government offices seized in nearly a
dozen cities, despite an international agreement to disarm and free the
DOENTSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on Saturday
prepared to celebrate Orthodox Easter at barricades outside government offices
seized in nearly a dozen cities, despite an international agreement to disarm
and free the premises.
In Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, spokesman for the self-appointed Donetsk
People's Republic, which is demanding broader regional powers and closer ties
to Russia, vowed that insurgents will continue occupying government offices
until the new pro-Western Kiev government is dismissed.
"We will leave only after the Kiev junta leaves," Pushilin told the
Associated Press outside the occupied regional administration building. "First
Kiev, then Donetsk."
Nearby, retiree Ksenia Shuleyko, 65, was handing out pieces of home-made
Easter raisin cake, traditionally served for Orthodox Easter. Speaking from a
red tent, decorated with a red hammer-and-sickle Soviet Union flag, Shuleyko
expressed hope that Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last
month, would also wield influence in the Donetsk region near the border with
Russia, known as the Donbass.
"We believe in Russia. It helped Crimea, it will also help the Donbass,"
Shuleyko said. "God will help those who believe and we do believe." Moments
later, she performed a patriotic Soviet-era song together with other
demonstrators and could not contain tears.
The Easter preparations and fortification efforts come two days after top
diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union issued
a statement calling for an array of actions including the disarming of militant
groups and the freeing of public buildings taken over by insurgents.
Those terms quickly became a heated issue as pro-Russian armed groups that
have seized police stations and other government buildings in eastern Ukraine
said they wouldn't vacate unless the country's acting government resigned. At
the same time, Pushilin told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency, that his group
could take part in a nation-wide roundtable on easing the crisis, which has
been proposed by Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and candidate in the
May 25 presidential election.
The insurgents say the Kiev authorities, who took power after pro-Russia
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February following months
of protests, aim to suppress the country's Russian-speakers. Eastern Ukraine,
which was Yanukovych's support base, and has a substantial Russian-speaking
The new government insists it is legitimate and has no plans to resign,
having been formed after Yanukovych fled Ukraine and approved by some members
of his party. While Russia continues to criticize the new government, it has
engaged in direct talks with it. The new government says it is working on
constitutional reforms, which will give eastern regions a greater voice in
Ukraine's turmoil has sparked the most severe East-West tensions since the
Cold War. Washington and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed
the Ukrainian region of Crimea last month following a referendum that
overwhelmingly approved Crimean secession. Russia has positioned troops in
regions bordering Ukraine and critics say Moscow is encouraging unrest in
eastern Ukraine and seeking a pretext for a military incursion.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that deputy minister
Grigory Karasin met with Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russia candidate in the Ukrainian
presidential election that is to take place on May 25.
"The Russian side noted that the questions of resolving the internal
political crisis should be decided by Ukrainians themselves in close
cooperation with a special monitoring mission" of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe, said a statement summarizing the meeting. "Russia is
prepared to show the most wide support in this."
The statement did not specify what that support would be, and it was not
clear what it can do or would be willing to do. Russia denies claims that it
has agents in eastern Ukraine directing or encouraging the insurgents.
The emphasis on Ukrainians' responsibility echoed a ministry statement a day
earlier which said the first step should be the disarming of members of the
ultranationalist Right Sector group, whose activists are occupying several
buildings in the center of the capital Kiev, having turned them into makeshift
Right Sector's activists were key elements in the three months of protests
that preceded Yanukovych's fall.