Less than 24 hours after the U.S., European Union, Russia, and Ukraine agreed preliminary de-escalation deal in Geneva, Switzerland, it’s already showing signs of falling apart.
Pro-Russian separatists who have been occupying buildings in at least 10 eastern Ukrainian cities are refusing to leave those buildings on Friday, saying they won’t do so until the interim government in Ukraine resigns. Denis Pushilin, a spokesman of the self-appointed Donetsk People’s Republic, told reporters Friday the agreement is “reasonable” — as long as it also applies to the government in Kiev.
That’s almost certainly not going to happen, and the U.S., E.U., and Ukraine certainly did not intend for it when agreeing to the deal Thursday.
One of the key tenets in the de-escalation deal is the provision that “all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners” — and there’s a fundamental disagreement among the parties in Ukraine over what’s illegal and who’s legitimate.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But during a press conference on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he was not optimistic about Russia holding up its end of the bargain, and he hinted that more sanctions could be on their way.
“My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days,” Obama said. “But I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that, and we have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.”
The deal also calls for all illegal groups to disarm, all illegally occupied streets and squares to be vacated, and for amnesty to all protesters who have surrendered their weapons. But according to the AP, none of the government buildings have been vacated, and there are no reports of any of the pro-Russian separatists disarming.
Russia, meanwhile, has claimed it does not have any troops in eastern Ukraine — meaning it will deny it has the ability to control whether they carry out the terms of the deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday asserted Russia’s right to intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine to protect its Russian-speaking population. He also ratcheted up his rhetoric, repeatedly referring to southeast Ukraine as “Novorussia” and saying only “God knows” why Russia’s parliament allowed the region to become part of Ukraine in the 1920s.
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