The diplomatic deal reached on Thursday to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine was rejected by pro-Russian militants, who continued to occupy government buildings in eastern Ukraine Friday. Image Credit: wikimedia.org
The preliminary agreement, reached by Russia and Ukraine along with the U.S. and EU, called for the separatists to leave Ukrainian government buildings and hand over their weapons.
While they remained in the buildings, some of the militant leaders said they would surrender their weapons and withdraw if the Ukrainian security forces also withdrew, according to The Washington Post.
While the pro-Russian militants currently occupying government offices in Donetsk said they support the accord, they said they would not surrender their weapons unless the interim government in Kiev is dissolved.
“It is an illegal junta,” Anatoliy Onischenko, one of the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said.
The Donetsk People’s Republic has been occupying the regional parliament building, while a different separatist group is occupying the Donetsk City Hall, according to the Post.
Others among the pro-Russian protesters said they would not evacuate government buildings until pro-government protesters left Kiev’s Independence Square.
While the acting president and prime minister of Ukraine have attempted to please the pro-Russian protesters by pledging to strengthen the constitutional rights to speak Russian, they also said they would continue to push out the separatists.
The two said that they would support a constitutional change that would give more power to local councils, including the ability to choose the official language in a joint televised address, according to Reuters.
Still, the separatists have expressed an unwillingness to cooperate with any attempts to bridge the gap between their groups and the government in Kiev.
“We are not leaving the building, regardless of what statements are made, because we know what is the real situation in the country and we will not leave until our commander tells us to,” said a man identified by Reuters as Anatoly, one of the armed separatists who is occupying the police headquarters in Slaviansk.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told journalists in Donetsk that they are not bound by the agreement signed Thursday.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “did not sign anything for us; he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation,” Pushilin said.
Pushilin said that the acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk took their offices “illegally” and should quit.
He also repeated the demand for a referendum that The New York Times says would be “similar to the one that preceded the annexation of Crimea by Russia last month.” Pushilin has called for a referendum by May 11.
So far, there has not been an official reaction from the Kremlin to the pro-Russian militants’ refusal to recognize the agreement.
USA Today reports that well-armed “soldiers in matching uniforms and masks have been assisting the militants.”
These soldiers are “Russian military sent in by Russia President Vladimir Putin to create unrest as an excuse to invade as he did last month in the Ukraine province of Crimea,” according to anti-Russian residents of Donetsk.
Thousands of people who do not want to join Russia held protests in Donetsk on Thursday night, according to USA Today.
The operation to push out pro-Russian separatists has not moved forward because the militants are “using civilians as human shields,” according to Ukrainian State Security Service spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko.
Ostapenko also alleged that some of the pro-Russian groups are from the Russian military.
The Ukrainian government has restricted male Russian citizens between 16 and 60 years old from entering the country.
The State Security Service says that some 11,000 Russians have been denied entry since the beginning of the week. The government agency states that 117 of them were linked to previous extremist activities.
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