[QODLink]
Europe

Pro-Russian separatists reject Kiev's amnesty

Armed men occupying buildings in the east refuse to vacate despite assurance they will be free if they surrender arms.

Last updated: 10 Apr 2014 19:45
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Pro-Russian separatists, who have besieged a number of government buildings in Ukraine's eastern districts, have turned down an amnesty offer handed by the government, stocking fear that a 48-hour ultimatum may end with violence.

The government said it would not prosecute pro-Russian separatists if they surrender their weapons, but the armed men said they would not leave.

Fortifying barricades around the buildings with barbed wire and sandbags overnight, they said the government will have to first accept holding a referendum on self-rule, before they evacuate the buildings.

The government said it would storm one of the buildings in Luhansk unless protesters leave by the end of the day, Al Jazeera was informed.

An armed storming of the buildings could provoke a strong response from Moscow, which has reserved the right to send troops in to protect Russian speakers.

In Donetsk, pro-Russian armed groups have already declared the district a "people's republic".

Tensions have risen in the mainly Russian-speaking east since the overthrow of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president and the installation of a new pro-European government, which says the occupations are part of a Russian-led plan to dismember the country.

The interior minister on Wednesday said he expected the situation to be brought under control within 48 hours, with force if necessary.

Softer tone

But Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov struck a softer tone on Thursday, saying he hoped to avoid bloodshed.

"We need to resolve this situation with the minimum number of victims," Turchynov told parliament.

The seizure of government buildings in February gave separatists control of the Crimea region and led weeks later to its annexation by Russia.

While some of the activists say they only want their regions to have more independence without leaving Ukraine, others have described the referendum as a step on the way to union with Russia.

Activists at both buildings said they would continue talks with the government, but said the current offer was not enough.

"They offered amnesty, but there is no movement on a referendum for federalisation," said Alexander Gureyev, one of the activists barricaded into the five-storey former KGB headquarters in Luhansk.

"We are not going to accept an amnesty without a referendum."

Around 250 protesters, some waving Russian flags, braved cold rain outside the building to show their support.

Activists armed with automatic rifles, pistols and knives kept guard on the building, pushing bookshelves against the windows so no one could see inside. One protester put their arsenal at around 200-300 rifles.

A larger crowd of around 1,500 people surrounded the seized regional government building in Donetsk, where activists also rejected the president's offer.

453

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.