Special Reports Politics

Tension builds as Geneva agreement collapses

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photo credit: European Action Service
photo credit: European Action Service

Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union held talks in Geneva on 17 April, to discuss the ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine.

This comes after growing violence in Eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian protesters have seized government buildings across the region. Many protesters have denounced the current government in Kiev as "illegitimate", demanding more autonomy for Eastern Ukraine, and even advocating separatist agendas to join Russia.

The seizure of government buildings in the East prompted Kiev to launch an "anti-terrorist operation" against the pro-Russian separatists on 15 April. However the operation had already hit a snag by the next day, with pro-Russian forces seizing six Ukrainian armoured vehicles in Kramatorsk.

With talks underway, it was clear that Kiev was struggling to enforce its authority over Eastern Ukraine, with many unarmed civilians playing their part in stifling the military's operation.

The Geneva talks were successful in creating an agreement between all of the parties represented.

The agreement, which sought to de-escalate the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, called for the dissolution of all illegal military formations in Ukraine. It also stated that everyone occupying buildings must leave disarmed. The deal also includes amnesty for all anti-government protesters.

In addition to this there were hints from Ukraine that its Eastern provinces may be able to obtain more autonomy in the future. The task of overseeing these steps has been given to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).Separatists, who were not represented at the Geneva talks, have rejected the deal. They have continued to occupy government buildings throughout Eastern Ukraine, and have even captured observers from OSCE.

The violence has not ceased either. Three people manning a pro-Russian checkpoint have been shot and two men, one a local policeman, have also been discovered after being reportedly tortured to death. Last Friday then saw the killing and torturing of a number of pro-Russian rebels in the eastern city of Sloviansk.

Both sides have been accusing each other of breaking the Geneva agreement. Ukraine continues to insist that Russian forces are operating inside Eastern Ukraine, though Russia denies this.

Further sanctions have been planned against Russia, with the White House stating the move was "in response to Russia's continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine's democracy." Sanctions are expected to continue until the US and other Western powers feel Russia, who has already seen billions of dollars leave the country, and its credit rating slashed to BBB- since the start of sanctions against it, is no longer threatening Ukrainian stability.

After reaching an agreement in Geneva, Putin re-asserted his position that Russia will intervene inUkraine, if, and only if, Russian interests are attacked. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has responded with warnings that "...NATO territory is inviolable. We will defend every single piece of it." Indeed the current conflict is thought to have sparked some of the worst East-West relations since the end of the Cold War.

On 30 April, acting President Olexander Turchynov admitted that the situation in Eastern Ukraine was out of Kiev's control, and that security forces security personnel sent to restore stability were "helpless" against pro-Russian activists.
They have now turned their attention to preventing other regions from falling under separatist influence.

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