Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Ukraine's Rival Camps, Putin's Words Fall on Deaf Ears

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Ukraine's Rival Camps, Putin's Words Fall on Deaf Ears

Article excerpt

If Russian President Vladimir Putin's call for pro-Russia separatists to postpone a regional referendum on sovereignty was meant to be an olive branch to Kiev, Ukraine's interim leadership isn't rushing to grab it - nor are the separatists.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk brushed Mr. Putin's comments aside on Thursday, saying that the Russian president was trying to sell "hot air." And after "considering" Putin's request, the rebels of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said they would go ahead with a May 11 referendum on whether the region should seek independence.

Putin's remarks came Wednesday after he met in Moscow with the Swiss president and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He also called for Ukraine to withdraw its troops in the eastern part of the country in order to deescalate the situation. He said Russian troops were already pulling back from their stations on his country's border with Ukraine.

Ukraine's interim government has accused Russia of orchestrating unrest in the eastern half of the country, where dozens have died in violent clashes between Ukrainian military forces and armed separatists. Kiev says Putin is trying to implement a "Crimea scenario" in the eastern part of Ukraine. In March, Crimea held a snap referendum that resulted in its annexation by Russia, angering the US and unnerving Europe, particularly former Soviet bloc countries.

The central government in Kiev has said it would not recognize the referendum in the east, just as it did not recognize the Crimea referendum two months ago.

Mr. Yatsenyuk did say that Kiev is working to defuse the crisis by organizing an all-Ukrainian, national dialogue. Government officials have floated the idea of such a forum in recent days but given few concrete details.

Yatsenyuk said the dialogue would gather representatives from across the country, including those demanding federalization in the east, to discuss regional reforms and demands. …

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