Ukraine, Russia Agree to Framework to De-Escalate Ukraine Tensions

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

Agreement Includes Demobilizing Militias, Vacating Seized Ukranian Government Buildings.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya

Ukraine and Russia, backed by the U.S. and Europe, agreed Thursday to steps to de-escalate tensions, including demobilizing militias, vacating seized government buildings and establishing a political dialogue that could lead to more autonomy for Ukraine’s regions.

The agreement, reached during more than six hours of talks in Geneva, could mark the first tangible step to defuse the political and security crisis in Ukraine since its Crimean region was annexed by Russia last month. (View hotspots along the Ukraine-Russia border in an interactive map.)

However the deal left many issues unanswered. It didn’t commit Russia to back next month’s Ukrainian presidential elections, nor did the U.S. and Europe pledge not to expand their punitive sanctions.

And while it calls for international monitors to “play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities” on implementing the deal, how that would actually work was unclear.

The chosen group—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe—has frequently stepped into conflict zones but usually to monitor elections and agreements rather than enforce them. Their officials are unarmed and therefore ultimately depend on persuasion rather than force.

Since Moscow claims it is not behind the actions of the separatists, it may claim it can do nothing to persuade them to back down or surrender their weapons.

The deal doesn’t require Russia to pull its troops back from the border with Ukraine, nor to renounce the right Russian President Vladimir Putin reasserted Thursday to send them into Ukraine if Moscow deems it necessary to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers there.

Western officials said however that the agreement calls for immediate de-escalation, and it will soon be clear if Moscow abides by the spirit of the accord.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):