US gives Russia ‘days’ to implement Ukraine agreement
Russia has not fulfilled its part of an international agreement to defuse tension in Ukrainem and Washington will only wait "days" more for the accord to be implemented, a senior US official said Wednesday (23 April).
"Russia has not taken the steps that it needs to take" under the agreement reached in Geneva last week, Daniel Baer, the US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said.
Under the deal, the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States agreed that illegal armed groups in Ukraine would go home in a process to be overseen by Europe's OSCE security watchdog (see background).
But no sooner had the accord been signed, than both sides accused the other of breaking it, while the pro-Moscow rebels disavowed the pledge to withdraw from occupied buildings.
Baer said the solution was for Russia to act.
"If failure happens, it will be because Russia has failed to stop its negative, destructive actions and move to a constructive path," he said, speaking at a Brussels event organised by the German Marshall Fund think tank.
Asked how long the United States would allow to see if the Geneva accord could be implemented, Baer told reporters at a separate event that he did not want to give a deadline but "we are talking days here".
The United States and European Union have held out the threat of further sanctions on Russia if it does not implement the Geneva agreement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier accused the United States of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack.
Baer said the United States had suggested that President Vladimir Putin or other senior Russian officials could make public statements saying Moscow did not support the illegal armed takeover of municipal buildings.
Moscow could also send a senior diplomat to help OSCE monitors trying to persuade people to leave occupied buildings.
The US Ambassador to NATO, Douglas Lute, speaking at the same think tank event, said that incursions by Russian aircraft into Baltic air space had fallen to zero since NATO reinforced
The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.
Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Pro-Russian militants control buildings in about 10 towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April.
The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union held talks in Geneva on 17 April with the aim of stopping violence in Ukraine [read more].
"All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions," the Geneva joint statement says.
"All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated," it added.