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Deal In Doubt As Separatists Refuse To Budge In Ukraine

A masked pro-Russia gunman looks through a window of a regional administration building seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Sergei Grits
A masked pro-Russia gunman looks through a window of a regional administration building seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine.

"Armed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Friday that they were not bound by an international deal ordering them to disarm and were looking for more assurances about their security before leaving the public buildings they are holding," Reuters reports.

What's more, "the separatists' spokesman told the BBC that the Kiev government was 'illegal,' so they would not go until the Kiev government stepped down."

The Washington Post sums up the situation this way:

"The pro-Russian militants occupying the Donetsk government offices said they supported an accord signed Thursday in Geneva that seeks to calm the potential for violence in the restive region. But they said they would lay down their weapons and leave only if the new national government in Kiev steps down."

Thursday evening in Geneva, as we reported, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, emerged from meetings with foreign ministers from Ukraine and the European Union to say the parties had agreed that all "illegal armed groups" in Ukraine should immediately lay down their weapons. Also, all "illegally seized buildings" in eastern Ukraine were to be returned to that nation's authorities.

The deal was seen as something of a breakthrough. But as Kerry cautioned, it would need to be followed by actions on the ground.

Now, the BBC notes, "a tense standoff continues in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists — many of them armed — are occupying official buildings in at least nine cities and towns."

On Morning Edition, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson said it doesn't appear the protesters in eastern Ukraine will be leaving those locations anytime soon. Some of them have said, she pointed out, that they want to see the demonstrators in Kiev's Maidan Square — the people whose protests led to the February collapse of Ukraine's previous, pro-Russia government — dismantle their camps first.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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