Thursday 19 April 2018

We'll fight to the end, say separatists as hopes for peace fade

Pro-Russian activists stand guard in front of the Donetsk Regional Administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine
Pro-Russian activists stand guard in front of the Donetsk Regional Administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine

David Blair Donetsk

PRO-RUSSIAN separatists promised to keep their grip on government buildings and "fight to the end" yesterday, dampening hopes that an agreement reached in Geneva might defuse Ukraine's crisis.

Denis Pushilin, the self-styled prime minister of the "Donetsk People's Republic", sat beneath the red and blue flag of his new "state" and declared that he was not bound by the deal struck in Switzerland late on Thursday.

This provided for all political factions to leave occupied public buildings in return for an amnesty. But the revolution that brought a pro-Western government to power in Kiev has caused fury in regions of eastern Ukraine. Here, millions of people are bound to Russia by ties of blood and language.

Mr Pushilin and his followers in the Donetsk region, have proclaimed the birth of their own "People's Republic", seizing the regional administrative headquarters a fortnight ago. They have now occupied official buildings in nine other towns and cities, seizing de facto control over Donetsk region, where 10pc of Ukraine's 45 million people live.

Mr Pushilin insisted that none of these gains would be relinquished – unless the "illegal" government in Kiev also vacated the buildings it held. Until that moment came, Mr Pushilin promised: "The people who are occupying these buildings at the moment will fight to the end."

He also demanded "constitutional reform" – meaning complete autonomy for eastern Ukraine – before he would consider any concessions. "Kiev is a government of criminals. They are using military force against their own people of Ukraine," he said.

SCEPTICISM

Russia has openly supported the Donetsk separatists and Western governments are convinced that Moscow's soldiers and intelligence agents have organised the occupations. Yet Russia also approved the Geneva agreement – providing for public buildings to be relinquished – along with the US, Ukraine's government and the European Union.

However, Mr Pushilin made clear that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, did not speak for the "Donetsk People's Republic", saying: "He did not do it for us – he did it in the name of the Russian Federation."

His words appeared to vindicate the scepticism of US President Barack Obama, who said after the Geneva agreement: "My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days – but I don't think, given past performance, that we can count on that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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