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OSCE dispatches mediator to Ukraine
April 20, 2014, 3:55 am

Pro-Russian protesters have refused to leave the government buildings in the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk [Xinhua]

Pro-Russian protesters have refused to leave the government buildings in the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk [Xinhua]

The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has dispatched a diplomatic envoy to mediate between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian protesters who have refused to recognise an agreement reached in Geneva this week and have continued to occupy some 10 official buildings in east Ukraine.

On Friday, pro-Moscow militia in the town of Donetsk near the border with Russia said they rejected the Geneva agreement because they weren’t represented in the talks.

Instead, they called for a “Russian sovereignty” referendum to be held on May 11.

On Thursday, Representatives of the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the EU – also known as the Ukraine Contact Group – reached agreement to deescalate the recent crisis by demanding that all sides halt violence and provocation, and for all militia to lay down their arms and leave official buildings seized over the course of the past week.

Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland for over seven hours, diplomats from the aforementioned countries called for the disarming of all illegally armed groups, and agreed to temporarily call of a slew of sanctions Western countries had prepared to slap on Russia.

But Dmitry Babich, a radio host and political analyst at Voice of Russia, sees pitfalls in the Geneva agreements, which could worsen the crisis.

He faults the Ukraine Contact Group for not including representatives of the pro-Russian protesters in Eastern Ukraine.

“This time, Russia suggested their participation and the US said it was one party too many. That means that the protest in Eastern Ukraine will continue, since the grievances of these people won’t be addressed,” Babich told The BRICS Post.

And that’s the point Denis Pushilin, the self-styled leader of the protesters who seized government buildings in Donetsk, has been making.

On Saturday, he told journalists that when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to the Geneva accord, he was doing so on behalf of the Russian Federation and not the ethnically Russian population in Ukraine.

Babich adds that the clause in the accord which stipulates that all illegally armed formations should be disarmed could be interpreted by the Kiev government as being exclusively directed against pro-Russian protesters only.

A joint statement from the Ukraine Contact Group on Thursday also focused on an “inclusive” constitution, which US President Barack Obama said would guarantee the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

“The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable,” the joint statement said. Further,

It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and national constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.

Babich believes the promise of “inclusive” constitution is too vague to include what the protesters want – federalization and more rights for the Russian language.

“By refusing to see the real grievances of Russian-speaking Ukrainians (and Russians before them), the Western partners of Ukraine multiply the number of aggrieved parties,” Babich said.

“And each time they finally agree to let the “unloved” party to access the talks (like they agreed to invite the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Geneva), it is already too late.”

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the host of the Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) TV show that he urged  all European states to join Moscow’s efforts to keep the Ukrainian economy afloat.

“We do not want to undermine the Ukrainian economy or to call the reliability of [gas] transits to Europe into question. That’s why we call on all European states, all countries interested in supporting the Ukrainian economy to join the process of helping Ukraine and to flesh out measures to finance the budget,” he said.

The BRICS Post with input from Agencies