Deal To Ease Ukraine Crisis Delays New Sanctions On Russia
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Kelly McEvers.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning.
The question in Ukraine now is whether words will be turned into actions. Diplomats from the United States, Europe, Russia and Ukraine got together in Geneva yesterday. They all spoke about a shared desire to calm the tensions in the eastern part of that country where armed, pro-Russian separatists have occupied government buildings and are clashing with the authorities. This agreement delays for the time being any new sanctions against Russia.
We now go to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson who's been monitoring these talks from Berlin. Soraya, good morning.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So what's exactly is in this agreement?
NELSON: Well, the key point is that protesters are required to immediately lay down arms and leave occupied buildings and squares in exchange for amnesty. And it's very important to note that they talk about all protesters, not just in one particularly region or the other. Then you would have international monitors overseeing this process. There's also a call for an end to violence, intimidation and provocative actions, as well as some outlines or rough outlines anyway, for a new constitution calling for it to be drafted in a manner that's inclusive, transparent and accountable.
And then the last part deals with providing more financial support for Ukraine if these other conditions are met.
GREENE: You say it's important that this requires protesters in all parts of the country, not just the east to lay down arms. Why is that significant?
NELSON: Because Russia, in particular, feels that the pro-Russian separatists are being singled out. I mean they don't even acknowledge that the government in Kiev is legitimate, and they certainly don't acknowledge what happened with former President Yanukovych, with him being ousted as being legitimate. And so this seems to be some sort of compromise, if you will, by referring to all protesters leaving.
GREENE: Soraya, what about the Russia troops that are massed along the Russian border with Ukraine? I mean any talk of them being required to pull back?
NELSON: No. It was a surprising omission from this agreement. And also, there was also no mention of Moscow and Kiev engaging in further talks, which was another thing that the U.S. and Europeans were demanding. Nor was there any mention of Crimea which, of course, is a big sticking point. I mean the Russians have annexed this peninsula and Ukraine, backed by the West, claimed it still belongs to them.
Russia, on the other hand, appeared to give up its demand that Ukraine become a loose federation in which Russian-speaking regions would have autonomy. So there was a lot of compromise all the way around, as noted by these omissions.
GREENE: Any the reaction to this yet in Eastern Ukraine where there's been this unrest?
NELSON: The pro-Russian separatists are very suspicious of this deal. Some of the leaders have said absolutely no way are we going to do this unless other conditions are met. For example, protesters in Kiev, who've been in Maidan or Independent Square there for many months and, of course, that's also what sparked the ouster of the former government, they want to see these guys go first before they leave. Some of them are even saying the new Kiev government should leave, that's what this deal actually means. And then others are saying no, we can't go until there's a referendum, such as the one that happened in Crimea, which ultimately led to its being annexed by Russia. So it doesn't appear the protesters will be leaving any time soon. But the clock is ticking, as Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Geneva.
SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: I made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov today that if we're not able to see progress on the immediate efforts, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.
GREENE: And that deadline, if it passes, what are the costs that Kerry is referring to there?
NELSON: More than likely he's talking about sanctions. I mean he didn't specify, but that's clearly what the Europeans and what the United States have been talking about. The problem is it's not going to be the kind of sweeping sanctions that the U.S. would like to see that would really target the energy or financial sector in Russia. It's more likely to be travel bans, if you, will on oligarchs and people within President Putin's inner circle, as well as freezing their assets in foreign countries.
GREENE: Soraya, help us get a sense for what this deal might mean. I mean the United States and Russia, they, it sounds like they seem to be trying to find common ground, but they also seem very far apart when you listen to what their leaders are saying.
NELSON: Absolutely. I mean very deep divisions over the cause of this crisis remain. And it was interesting yesterday that President Putin took to the airwaves just as these talks were going on and made it pretty clear that he reserves the right to send Russian troops across the border if things don't get resolved there to his satisfaction.
GREENE: All right. That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin. She's been monitoring this agreement that's aimed at ending the unrest in Eastern Ukraine. Soraya, thanks a lot.
NELSON: You're welcome, David.