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8 May, 2014 01:40

Moscow's roadmap for Ukraine settlement sees mixed response

Moscow’s call on pro-federalization protesters in Ukraine to postpone the referendums was welcomed by the West and Kiev, yet they still do not recognize the need to halt the military op in southeast as a prerequisite for national dialogue and elections.

Ukraine presidential hopeful Pyotr Poroshenko (UDAR Party) has welcomed President Vladimir Putin’s statements, saying that the situation significantly improved following the news from Moscow. “We have an appeal to stop an illegal referendum, Russia accepting presidential elections. I think this is great news for stabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters in Berlin.

On Wednesday, Putin called the presidential election in Ukraine, now scheduled for May 25, “a move in the right direction” adding however it would mean nothing unless all citizens of Ukraine have a full understanding of how their rights would be guaranteed afterwards.

The direct dialogue between Kiev and representatives of the southeastern regions is the “key element” of settling the conflict, Putin said, supported on this by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter. In order to “create the necessary conditions for this dialogue,” Putin urged rescheduling of the referendum planned by anti-government protesters to determine the future of southeastern Ukraine.

However, for a dialogue to succeed, a ceasefire and halt of any violence should take place by all the military, paramilitary and illegal radical armed groups, Putin added. “Russia urgently appeals to the authorities in Kiev to cease immediately all military and punitive operations in southeast Ukraine,” he said.

Armed men in Ukrainian military uniforms stand guard beside an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine May 7, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djuric)

Russia is not responsible for the deepening crisis in Ukraine, Putin reiterated, reciting concrete steps it made to de-escalate tensions.

“We have been told that our troops by the Ukrainian border are a concern – we have withdrawn them. They are now not near the border, but at locations where they conduct regular drills at ranges,” he said. “This can be easily verified using modern intelligence techniques, including from space, where everything can be seen.”

“We helped to secure the OSCE military observers’ release and I think also made a contribution to defusing the situation,” he added.

The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, noted on Wednesday evening that a “genuine national dialogue and the cessation of acts of violence and provocations are essential elements in advancing towards a political solution.”

“I take note of President Putin's recent statements signalling a willingness to de-escalate the situation, including his call to refrain from holding a referendum in the Eastern part of Ukraine and the stated withdrawal of Russian troops from the borders of Ukraine,” Rompuy said.

The United States however claimed that, although being a step forward, is not enough and Russia should try harder to deescalate tensions in Ukraine.

“It is a helpful step but again there is far more the President Putin and the Russians can do to deescalate the situation and to ensure safe elections,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told journalists on Wednesday evening, without elaborating on which other moves she was expecting from Russia.

A man and boy stand in front of a Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine May 7, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djuric)

Shortly afterwords, Ukraine's foreign ministry issued a statement welcoming the "important role of the OSCE in international efforts aimed at de-escalating the situation", but adding that Moscow was covering up its "support of terrorist actions against Ukrainian citizens" behind a facade of "good will".

“A full-scale national dialogue… is an absolute priority of the Government of Ukraine,” the ministry’s statement reads.“However, a dialogue with terrorists is impermissible and unconceivable. Protection of peoples’ lives and elimination of terrorism which undermines any possibility of the dialogue is the goal of the anti-terrorist operation being conducted in certain locations in the east of our country.”

Residents gather to speak to Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint which they seized in the early morning in the village of Andreevka, 7 kms from the centre of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on May 2, 2014. (AFP Photo)

The OSCE was ready to take responsibility for coordinating the “roadmap” to resolve the crisis and negotiations with the US and the EU would be taking place soon, Burkhalter said earlier. But Ukraine’s FM stated that discussion of the peaceful settlement in Ukraine “without Ukraine” is “senseless and unacceptable.”

Representatives of the southeast in the meantime said they were ready for negotiations with Kiev and would on Thursday discuss possible rescheduling of the referendum.

But neither those in power in Kiev, nor the United States seem to be interested in accepting any kind of roadmap that could bring about peaceful solution to the crisis, Lawrence Freeman of the Executive Intelligence Review magazine told RT.

“You have to keep in mind that the US State Department and in particular Victoria Nuland, who has been behind this coup since the end of last year, these are people who are actually running the show. And they want to force a confrontation. They’ve been lying about the entire situation since February 21-22… have not been telling the truth about who is actually responsible for the confrontations in Kiev and in Eastern Ukraine,” Freeman said.

The roadmap proposed by President Putin and the OSCE chief, Freeman believes, is the best way of ”avoiding the confrontation” some would like to have with Russia.

“I think President Putin is actually strategically handling the situation quite well. Because he knows that there are people who would like to use this conflict to escalate to major war. So he is outmanoeuvring the actual people behind this,” Freeman said.

If authorities in Kiev are really worried about Ukraine’s future as a country and its territorial integrity, Freeman says they have no other choice but stop their full-scale military operation against the population in the southeast.

“They have to, if they want to have a country,” he said. “They cannot allow neo-Nazis and right-wing fascists to run the country, to be part of security and military operation. If they want to be a country – they can’t do that.”