Diplomats Agree On Way To Ease Tensions In Ukraine

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

Photo courtesy of CBS News.

CBS News – After hours of talks at a luxury hotel, top diplomats have adopted a joint roadmap to ease tensions in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the four parties gathered Thursday in Geneva – the U.S., European Union, Ukraine and Russia – will work to establish a broad national dialogue to ensure that people’s rights are protected.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that amnesty will be given to pro-Russian protesters who participated in an uprising against the government in Kiev, except those found guilty of capital crimes.

The tentative agreement could put on hold – for now at least – economic sanctions the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks were fruitless. And that would ease international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. and its European allies for having what he called a double standard and said he hoped he would not have to deploy troops to Ukraine.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. will send non-lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military in light of what he called Russia’s ongoing destabilizing actions there. He told a Pentagon news conference that the military assistance to Ukraine will include medical supplies, helmets, water purification units and power generators.

Ukraine has asked for military assistance from the U.S., a request that was believed to include lethal aid like weapons and ammunition. Obama administration officials have said they were not actively considering lethal assistance for fear it could escalate an already tense situation.

The U.S. has already sent Ukraine other assistance, such as pre-packaged meals for its military.

“Each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, there are going to be consequences,” President Obama said Wednesday in an interview with CBS News. “Mr. Putin’s decisions aren’t just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they’re going to be bad for Russia.”

On Thursday, Putin denied claims that Russian special forces were fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine. He called the Ukrainian government’s effort to quash the uprising a “crime.”

In Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance would increase its presence in Eastern Europe, including flying more sorties over the Baltic region west of Ukraine and deploying allied warships to the Baltic Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, told reporters that ground forces also could be involved at some point, but gave no details.

So far, the military movements and two initial rounds of sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians accused by the West of stirring up the unrest have done little to ease tensions.

Officials said a full-scale Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would result in broad U.S. and European sanctions on key Russian economic sectors, including its powerful energy industry. However, European nations are divided on whether to limit its access to Russia’s oil and gas supplies, and a vote to sanction must be unanimous among the EU’s 28 member states.

The sanctions that could be levied in the aftermath of the Geneva meeting were expected to focus on Putin’s close associates, including oligarchs who control much of Russia’s wealth, as well as businesses and other entities they control. It was unclear whether those sanctions would change Putin’s calculus, given that the U.S. and the Europeans already have launched targeted sanctions on people in Putin’s inner circle.

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