The hard-won deal to defuse the Ukraine crisis got off to a shaky start on Friday, hours after it was hammered out in Geneva in four-party talks late on Thursday.
The agreement reached by the Foreign Ministers of Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine provides for “all illegal armed groups” to disarm and vacate the seized buildings. It calls on all sides to “refrain from any violence, intimidation and provocative actions” and for amnesty to protesters.
Kiev has refused to call off its “anti-terrorist operation” in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast, but agreed to put it on hold.
“The anti-terrorist operation is continuing. How long it will continue depends on whether the terrorists leave our territory. However, the operation is not in an active phase because of the Easter holidays and the Geneva agreements,” a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Services told reporters in Kiev on Friday.
Anti-government protesters, for their part, said they would disarm if the Ukrainian military stops attacking them.
“Let the Kiev junta first pull out its troops and its militants from here,” Miroslav Rudenko, deputy commander of people’s militia in Donetsk, told RIA Novosti.
“How can we disarm and leave the buildings when they are waging a war on use with the armour, army commandos and aircraft?” the activist said. “The Right Sector and the Maidan self-defence forces have not disarmed. They are now shooting at peaceful people here. Kiev has legalised the nationalist militants by recruiting them into the National Guard.”
The four parties involved in the Geneva talks gave starkly different interpretations to their agreements before the ink dried on the deal.
While Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that the call to disarm was addressed, not only, to pro-Russian protesters in the east, but also to far right militants in the west, Kiev spoke only about “Russia-sponsored bandits.”
“Russia was forced in Geneva to denounce extremism and subscribe to the demand for all bandit groups to be immediately disarmed and evicted from the seized buildings,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that the onus for making the protesters in eastern Ukraine comply with the Geneva agreement lay with Russia.
“Responsibility will lie with those who have organised their presence, provided them with the weapons, put the uniforms on them, supported them, and have been engaged in the process of guiding them over the course of this operation,” Mr. Kerry told a press conference in Geneva.
He threatened Russia with further sanctions if Washington did not see progress in disarming protesters in eastern Ukraine “this weekend.”