OSCE mission to meet protesters in eastern Ukraine

OSCE mission to meet protesters in eastern Ukraine

Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:44AM GMT

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has sent a mission to eastern Ukraine with the aim of de-escalating the situation.

Ertogrul Apakan, who heads the OSCE special mission to Kiev, said on Saturday that his deputy, Mark Etherington, would meet leaders of pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk by Sunday.

The visit follows a Geneva accord signed between Russia, the EU, the US and Ukraine.

On Thursday, the four parties also agreed that the OSCE should oversee the disarmament of protesters and the evacuation of occupied facilities and streets in eastern Ukraine.

However, the pro-Russian protesters have refused to recognize the accord, with their leaders renewing calls for a referendum.

Kiev launched massive military operations against protesters on April 15, a day after they refused to lay down arms and leave occupied state buildings. Several people have been killed in the region in the past week.

OSCE advisors arrived in Kiev on Friday to reportedly ease tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

The special monitoring group is limited to advisory and monitoring roles and lacks any enforcement power.

The Ukrainian crisis began last November when the country’s then president Viktor Yanukovych refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

The refusal triggered months of unrest and clashes with the police, which finally led to the ouster of Yanukovych on February 23. He then travelled to Russia, where he was given sanctuary.

Ukraine has experienced a fresh wave of unrest since the Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Kiev on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, pro-Moscow protests gained momentum in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.

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