U.S. and Russia Agree on Pact to Defuse Ukraine Crisis

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from The New York Times,

The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement here on Thursday evening that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps to de-escalate the crisis.

Secretary of State John Kerry described the package of measures as an important first step to avert “a complete and total implosion” in eastern Ukraine and said that it could be followed by negotiation of more far-reaching steps to ease a crisis in which violence seemed to be growing by the day.

Mr. Lavrov said the deal was “largely based on compromise” and that a settlement of the crisis was primarily the responsibility of Ukraine’s. Mr. Lavrov made the remarks at a news conference that he gave before Mr. Kerry had spoken.

But President Obama sounded a cautious if not skeptical note in Washington. “I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” he said, but there is a chance “that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation.”

He added: “We’re not going to know if there is follow through for several days.”

Judging by the early reaction on the street in eastern Ukraine, his skepticism was justified.

Vasili Domashev, who described himself as an aide to the commandant of a building under occupation in Donetsk, said that since no representative of the newly declared and wholly unrecognized People’s Republic of Donetsk had been invited to the Geneva talks, the republic would not be bound by the decisions made there.

The agreement, described in a joint statement, does not specifically require Russia to remove the approximately 40,000 troops it has on Ukraine’s border, as Mr. Obama has demanded.

Nor does it commit Russia to holding direct talks with the interim Ukrainian government, which has been another American demand. The agreement also does not mention the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula last month.

The agreement on “initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security” in Ukraine followed more than six hours of talks here that involved Mr. Kerry, his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, and Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief for the European Union.

It calls on all sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence or provocative behavior and rejects all forms of intolerance, including anti-Semitism, which Mr. Kerry said had emerged as a worry in eastern Ukraine.

While there has been no Russian commitment to withdraw forces from Ukraine’s border on a specific schedule, Mr. Kerry said the Russian side had suggested that the presence would be reduced as the crisis eased.

The talks were held at the same luxury hotel where five years ago Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was then serving as the secretary of state, presented Mr. Lavrov with a red “reset” button intended to signal a fresh start in the White House’s relations with the Kremlin.

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