May 13, 2014 in Nation/World

Insurgents in Ukraine declare independence

Acting prime minister seeks ‘broad national dialogue’
Peter Leonard Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Pro-Russian gunmen and activists react while listening to a speaker as they declare independence for the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

EU expands sanctions list

BRUSSELS – European Union foreign ministers added 13 people Monday to their visa ban and asset freeze list over Ukraine’s crisis but are not expected to decide whether to impose tough economic measures on Russia before Ukraine’s May 25 elections, officials said.

The 28 EU ministers also said in a statement that two firms in Russia-annexed Crimea would be hit with asset freezes.

The ministers agreed to expand the scope of visa bans and asset freezes to target people undermining stability in Ukraine or obstructing international organizations there. The Obama administration has its own sanctions list.

The targets of the new sanctions include Russia’s top prosecutor in Crimea; the commander of Russian airborne troops; a member of Putin’s staff, and people identified by the EU as leaders of the armed pro-Moscow revolt in eastern Ukraine.

A total of 61 people are now on the EU’s sanctions list due to Ukraine.

DONETSK, Ukraine – Pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukraine declared independence Monday and sought to join Russia, undermining upcoming presidential elections, strengthening the Kremlin’s hand and putting pressure on Kiev to hold talks with the separatists following a referendum on self-rule.

Russia signaled it has no intention of subsuming eastern Ukraine the way it annexed Crimea in March. Instead, Moscow is pushing to include eastern regions in negotiations on Ukraine’s future – suggesting that Russia prefers a political rather than a military solution to its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War.

Such talks are central to a potential path toward peace outlined Monday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The plan laid out by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter calls on all sides to refrain from violence and urges immediate amnesty, talks on decentralization and the status of the Russian language. That’s a key complaint of insurgents who have seized power in eastern regions and clashed with government troops and police.

But it’s up to the Ukrainian government to take the next step.

Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged to hold a dialogue with Ukraine’s east. But he gave no specifics and stopped short of addressing Sunday’s referendum and the declarations of independence in the pro-Moscow regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“We would like to launch the broad national dialogue with the east, center, the west, and all of Ukraine,” Yatsenyuk told a news conference in Brussels, adding that the agenda for talks should include changes to the constitution that would give more powers to the regions.

Ukraine’s central government and the West say the Kremlin has encouraged weeks of unrest in eastern Ukraine in a possible attempt to grab more land. Russia says that’s not so, and accuses the West of meddling in a region that Moscow sees as its backyard.

The Ukrainian government’s room to maneuver is shrinking.

With national presidential elections scheduled for May 25, the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence Monday, and those in Donetsk even asked to join enormous neighbor Russia instead. The sprawling areas along Russia’s border, home to about 6.6 million people, form Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

A day earlier, both regions held a slapdash referendum that Ukraine’s acting president called a “sham” and Western governments said violated international law.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says the United States does not recognize the results of the vote, and is focusing on making sure Ukraine’s presidential election takes place as planned in 13 days.

But that is starting to look in doubt: Luhansk spokesman Vasily Nikitin said his region will not take part.

The interim government in Kiev had been hoping the presidential vote would unify the country behind a new, democratically chosen leadership. Ukraine’s crisis could grow even worse if regions start rejecting the presidential election. Dozens of people have been reported killed since Ukrainian forces began trying to retake some eastern cities.

Organizers said 89 percent of those who cast ballots Sunday in the Donetsk region and about 96 percent of those who turned out in Luhansk voted for sovereignty.

Voters “have chosen that path that has enabled the formation of an independent state – the Luhansk People’s Republic,” said self-declared “people’s governor” Valery Bolotov at a rally in the city of Luhansk.

© Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email