21 Apr 2014

Russia: Kiev ‘breaking Geneva accord’ on Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accuses Ukraine of violating an accord reached in Geneva last week aimed at averting a wider conflict between the two neighbours.

“Steps are being taken – above all by those who seized power in Kiev – not only that do not fulfil, but that crudely violate the Geneva agreement,” he said.

Lavrov also told a news conference that a deadly gunfight early on Sunday near the Ukrainian city of Slaviansk, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists, was a crime and showed Kiev did not want to control “extremists”.

“The authorities are doing nothing, not even lifting a finger, to address the causes behind this deep internal crisis in Ukraine,” he said.

At least three people were killed in the shootout.

US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday on a mission to signal US support for the government and look for ways out of an increasingly tense showdown with Russia.

It comes as an Ukrainian journalist and EuroMaidan activist was reportedly taken captive by pro-Russian militants in the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk late on Sunday and is being held in the local security service building seized earlier by the group.

Captured by militants

Irma Krat, 29, the editor-in-chief of Hidden Truth TV and the leader of an all-female self-defence unit during the EuroMaidan Revolution that ousted the former President Viktor Yanukovych, was captured around 8 pm on Easter Sunday, Krat’s lawyer, Oleg Veremiyenko, told the Kyiv Post on Monday.

The events have shaken an already fragile accord reached last Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.

The agreement called for an immediate end to violence in Ukraine, where Western powers believe Russia is fomenting a pro-Russian separatist movement, an allegation Moscow denies.

The accord also called for illegal armed groups to go home in a process to be overseen by Europe’s OSCE watchdog.

However, separatists have shown little sign of quitting public buildings in largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. Lavrov said the Ukrainian authorities had failed to remove illegal protests from squares in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Stronger economic sanctions

The White House has demanded Russia use its influence over the separatists – Moscow insists it has none – to force them to vacate the buildings.

It has also warned of stronger economic sanctions than those already imposed if Moscow fails to uphold the Geneva deal.

“Before giving us ultimatums, demanding that we fulfil demands within two or three days with the threat of sanctions, we would urgently call on our American partners to fully accept responsibility for those who they brought to power,” Lavrov said.

He added that attempts to isolate Russia would fail because it was “a big, independent power that knows what it wants.”