Monday, September 01, 2014


Ukraine

The Geneva Agreement -- On Paper And On The Ground

Participants from Russia, Ukraine, the EU, and the United States thrash out a deal aimed at resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Geneva on April 17.
Participants from Russia, Ukraine, the EU, and the United States thrash out a deal aimed at resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Geneva on April 17.
By RFE/RL
Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the European Union have reached an agreement in Geneva on a series of steps to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine. We take a look at the key points in the agreement and the steps taken -- or not taken -- thus far to implement them.
 
"All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism."
 
Pro-Russian separatists are continuing their push to take control of government buildings in Ukraine's Russian-leaning east.
 
The "antiterrorism" operation launched by Ukrainian authorities this week to quell the unrest has fueled fears of new bloodshed.
 
Three separatists were killed by Ukrainian security forces on April 16 after hundreds of protesters attacked a military base in Mariupol, the worst violence so far in the pro-Russian uprising.
 
Each side in the conflict has accused the other of anti-Semitism. In the latest incident, anti-Semitic leaflets distributed at a synagogue in Donetsk have also sparked concerns that the local Jewish population could be targeted.
 
Speaking after the talks in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the leaflets -- which call on Jews to register with the separatist authorities -- "intolerable," "grotesque," and "beyond unacceptable."
 
Their authenticity, however, has not yet been verified. The separatists have denied responsibility.
 
"All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated."
 
Pro-Russian insurgents currently occupy government buildings in a dozen towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. They claim to be protecting the population from what they describe as a dangerous and illegitimate leadership in Kyiv.
 
The disbanding of armed groups was part of the original February deal brokered by EU foreign ministers before then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country. But this condition, like many others, was disregarded by all sides.
 
Soon after the Geneva agreement was published, Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia said that the deal would not affect the "antiterrorist" operation in the east of the country and that troops will remain there.
 
His Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, stressed that the disbanding must include all illegal armed groups. His statement was widely interpreted as referring to pro-European protesters who have been camped out in Kyiv since November, including activists of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector group.
 
Deshchytsia said this would be a "very sensitive issue" but confirmed Kyiv remained committed to do away with all illegal armed groups.
 
"It is very important that these people are redirected to more peaceful ways of protest" he said.
 
"Amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes."
 
The announced amnesty is having little effect so far on separatist militants, who show no sign of backing down.
 
Pro-Russian insurgents in Donetsk said they will leave occupied buildings only if the interim Ukrainian government resigns. They also said they are not a party to the Geneva talks and are determined to pursue their struggle for autonomy.
 
Armed pro-Russia activists walk outside the city state building they seized in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. So far, they have shown no sign of budging.
Armed pro-Russia activists walk outside the city state building they seized in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. So far, they have shown no sign of budging.

Oleksandr Khriakov, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, demanded that Euromaidan protesters pack up their camp in Kyiv first and that the interim government hold a referendum on the region's status.
 
"It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The U.S., EU and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors."
 
Under the agreement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is tasked with ensuring the terms of the agreement will be observed. It will also help implement them on the ground.
 
The United States, Russia, and European countries will contribute observers to beef up the OSCE's team in Ukraine.
 
The deal, however, does not specifically require Russia to remove the approximately 40,000 troops it has massed on Ukraine's border. It does not address, either, the increased NATO presence on Russia's western border, announced on April 16 by the alliance's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
 
"The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent, and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine's regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments."

 
Authorities in Kyiv have promised sweeping constitutional reform aimed at bolstering regional autonomy, local selfgovernment, and the protection of minority rights.
 
Under the agreement, authorities in Kyiv must immediately start a process of public consultation as part of the reform.
 
Moscow, which has been lobbying for a decentralized federation that would allow regions to determine their own economic and foreign policies, has complained that the reform process lacks transparency.
 
"The participants underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented."
 
Ukraine's economy has been severely hit by the crisis.
 
Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has warned that his country is on the brink of economic and financial bankruptcy.
 
The Finance Ministry says Ukraine needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default.
 
The International Monetary Fund announced a rescue package worth $18 billion last month. The United States and European countries have pledged additional contributions, putting the total aid at $27 billion.
 
Kerry and Lavrov both said after the Geneva meeting that additional measures may be taken to stabilize the Ukrainian economy, but stopped short of unveiling concrete measures.

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