Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov announces deal to ‘disband illegal armed groups’ across Ukraine

18th Apr 2014
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov announces deal to ‘disband illegal armed groups’ across Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced an international deal on the conflict in Ukraine, agreed at talks in Geneva. The agreement included a move to “disband illegal armed groups” throughout the country.

Lengthy talks between Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU appeared to reach a breakthrough on Thursday evening, late in the first day of emergency negotiations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that all four sides had agreed on a roadmap to de-escalate tensions in the east of Ukraine.

Lavrov listed four key agreements, that “all illegal military formations must be dissolved,” and that public buildings occupied in several eastern Ukrainian towns and cities should be cleared. Lavrov also said that protesters would receive amnesties in exchange for turning in their weapons, provided they were not accused of capital crimes.

Finally, Lavrov called for “long-term constitutional reforms” in Ukraine, but spoke of a decentralization of Kyiv’s power – not the federalism Russia had recently advocated for its neighbor.

OSCE mission in focus

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton later addressed the media. Kerry said the most important next step was to ensure “that these words are translated into actions.”

Kerry called the deal the result of a “good day’s work,” but said he had warned Lavrov that Russia should expect further sanctions if it was found to breach the agreement. Thursday’s agreement halted US plans for further sanctions targeting Moscow.

All sides agreed in their joint statement, released in full after the talks, that “the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most.” Russia, the EU and US all committed to support the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission, including by providing monitors.

It was not immediately clear what effect the agreement would have on pro-Russian separatists occupying various government buildings in several Ukrainian towns. The Reuters news agency quoted one separatist leader in the key industrial city of Donetsk as saying that the process of clearing protesters should begin at Kyiv’s Maidan – the symbolic hub of the public protests that toppled Viktor Yanukovych.

“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,” is the precise wording of the relevant section in Thursday’s agreement.

Thursday’s negotiations in Geneva were considered  a key opportunity to partially defuse the east-west tensions that arose as a result of several months of political upheaval in Ukraine and the contentious referendum where Crimean citizens voted to join the Russian Federation.

msh/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

 

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