Moscow and Kiev broker pact to step back from the brink

Diplomats meeting in Geneva hope agreement will provide breathing space for next month’s presidential elections

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Geneva after talks on  Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Geneva after talks on Ukraine. Photograph: Reuters

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 07:13

Russia and Ukraine agreed a pact to de-escalate the Ukrainian crisis in a deal brokered yesterday in Geneva by the US and EU. After seven hours of talks the four sides presented a paper calling for all groups to end violent protests and illegal occupations of buildings in exchange for an amnesty against prosecution.

Diplomats meeting in Geneva expressed hope the agreement would provide breathing space for next month’s presidential elections and what the paper called an “inclusive, transparent and accountable” revision of the Ukrainian constitution. The talks took place amid growing violence in which Ukrainian forces killed three pro-Russian militants and wounded 13 others in the southeastern city of Mariupol. In Geneva, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia described the de-escalation pact as a “test for Russia to show that it is really willing to have stability in this region”.

US secretary of state John Kerry welcomed the agreement but warned it had little meaning if its promises were not kept. “We wanted to find concrete steps . . . to be acted on immediately to defuse the situation,” said Mr Kerry. “The job will not be done until these principles are implemented.”

There had been no discussion yesterday of lifting international sanctions imposed on Russia, he said, adding that further sanctions would follow if measurable progress was not made in the coming days.

Denial
Mr Kerry denied the deal marked the effective acceptance by the EU and US of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. “Nobody has left behind the issue of Crimea” he said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was “extremely important” that steps agreed were implemented “immediately”.

The Geneva agreement calls on all sides to end “violence, intimidation and provocative actions” in Ukraine and condemns strongly “all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism”. It extends an amnesty to those who end their protests and surrender their weapons – “with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes”.

All participants in the talks agreed to support the special monitoring mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) , which is already on the ground. Russia, the EU and the US committed to supporting this mission with additional monitors.

Ahead of the talks, Russian president Vladimir Putin used a television appearance to accuse Kiev’s interim government of “grave crimes” for using force against pro-Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine. He told viewers he was ready to send in troops if needed,