Geneva Meeting amidst Mounting Violence in Eastern Ukraine

Written by | Thursday, April 17th, 2014

As a violent clash in the city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine has led to three casualties, foreign ministers of the US, Russia, Ukraine and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are meeting in Geneva today (17 April) in an attempt to defuse the Ukraine crisis. Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian interior minister, wrote on his Facebook page that the three people were killed, and scores of others injured and arrested following an attack by Ukrainian forces on separatists in Mariupol, while adding that the Ukrainian police forces suffered no losses. This attack by Ukrainian security forces on separatists appears to be the first such action since acting President Oleksander Turchinov on Tuesday (15 April) announced the launch of an “anti-terrorist” operation against pro-Russian separatist militias in the east of the country. Kiev also confirmed that Russian special forces are behind the actions of the paramilitary troops taking control of several cities in eastern Ukraine. Both Kiev and the West believe Moscow is stirring up the unrest, and a senior US official made clear that Russian leaders had to de-escalate the crisis.
However, with tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine, all sides seem to agree that prospects of significant progress at the four-way talks appear slim. By contrast, Putin suggested that his annual “hotline” session with the Russian people may have far greater influence on events in Ukraine’s rebellious east. Upon arriving in Geneva on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, expressed his hope that there was still time for negotiations to ease tensions with Russia: “I think that we still have a chance to de-escalate the situation using diplomatic means.” Western officials stress that they expect Russia to stop aiding and abetting and supporting the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Moscow would pull their troops back from the borders. Overall, US and EU officials said they did not expect a breakthrough in Geneva, adding that it was reasonable to assume that more sanctions would be imposed against Russia if there was no progress. Meanwhile, NATO announced on Wednesday (16 April) it would send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe to reassure its allies worried by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but falling short of establishing new permanent bases in the east, as requested by Poland.

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