The second meeting of a roundtable on resolving the acute political crisis in Ukraine may be held in the country’s rebellious east, if participants can be assured safety. The first roundtable brokered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was convened in Kiev on Wednesday without representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which declared their independence from Ukraine earlier this week.
Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk did not rule out that separatist leaders may be invited to the next roundtable. However, separatists have sought to press the point that their breakup with Ukraine was irreversible. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has announced it was drafting its constitution.
According to Miroslav Rudenko, a separatist activist, the DPR will be a parliamentary republic. The republic’s Parliament, called the Supreme Soviet as in the erstwhile Soviet Union, is headed by Denis Pushilin, an ardent supporter of Donetsk independence, while Igor Strelkov, the separatists’ military commander, has been appointed Defence Minister.
Donetsk and Luhansk, which separately declared their independence, plan to form a federation.
Moscow, which earlier expressed “respect” for the overwhelming vote for independence in Donetsk and Luhansk, made it clear on Thursday that it has no immediate plans to recognise the separatists and once again urged Kiev to launch talks with the Russian-speaking eastern regions.
Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told lawmakers on Thursday that government forces had attacked and destroyed two military bases of insurgents in overnight operations near Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk region as the military resumed the offensive despite the start of roundtable talks. Eyewitnesses told Russian wires that three local residents, including a woman, were killed when Ukrainian military opened fire on their cars in two separate incidents near Kramatorsk. Ukraine’s Party of the Regions of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych walked out of the Parliament on Thursday in protest against the authorities’ refusal to halt the military operation in the east.
Insurgents in Donetsk gave Kiev 24 hours, until 9 p.m. on Thursday, to remove troops from the cities and vacate roadblocks or face being ousted by force.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to press Europe on further sanctions against Russia, which it blames for the crisis in Ukraine.