As the first deaths in Eastern Ukraine Thursday resulted from an armed assault of a Ukrainian military base in Southeast Ukraine, the governments of Ukraine, Russia, U.S. and the UN engaged in talks in Geneva that bore an agreement on de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, reportedly.
At a Ukrainian National Guard base in Mariupol–a port city on the Black Sea–Ukrainian soldiers fired on pro-Russian protesters who were attacking the base, killing three pro-Russian protesters and injuring 13.
Wednesday, the Ukrainian government announced that it would conduct an anti-terrorist operation to regain control of pro-Russian forces occupied government buildings in Slovyansk and other Southeastern Ukrainian cities. Wednesday night, shots fired by the officers within the Mariupol base were not sufficient to dissuade a group of 300 pro-Russians armed with firebombs and stun grenades who assaulted the base. The pro-Russians refused to back down.
Associated Press TV News footage showed some of the events that took place at Mariupol base. Footage shows an unidentified man approaching the group of masked men from inside the base. The unidentified man told the group that the military had asked for 10 minutes to consider an ultimatum that had been offered them. The armed group insisted that they wanted no bloodshed.
Soon thereafter, masked men attacked the gate of the base with molotov cocktails, bats and sticks. The base responded with gunfire. The gunfire was first directed into the air, but, having no effect, the gunfire was lowered onto the advancing force.
East Ukrainians who commented on the events were divided, some blaming Russia, some accusing Ukrainian fascist agents of the West.
Negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S., and the UN bore the fruit of the Ukrainian government’s agreement to the requirements of the International Criminal Court in order to have the Court investigate the deaths of the 80 Ukrainian protesters at Maidan in February.
The four parties also agreed to adopt a joint document on the de-escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. The document calls for illegal armed groups in Ukraine to disarm and provides for amnesty. The amnesty is to extend to all protesters, except those who have committed grave crimes.
The document explicitly calls for “dialogue within a framework of the constitutional process,” according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The document holds that Ukrainians must resolve the conflict themselves and begin true constitutional reform, Lavrov said. The document also deals with detaining protesters and occupying buildings. All occupied administrative buildings are to be returned, the foreign minister told journalists at a briefing Thursday after the meeting.
The Ukrainian government began its clampdown on pro-Russian forces in Southeast Ukraine Wednesday. Several retreats and losses of armored troop carriers were suffered by the Ukrainian forces tasked with carrying out the mission. The government also imposed a ban on all Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60, who are no longer allowed to enter Ukraine, except in unusual circumstances, such as bereavements in a family. The parliament has seen requests by its members for the reinstatement of army conscription in hopes that the presence of such a national force would deter or prevent armed takeovers such as those currently being seen in the Southeast.
By Day Blakely Donaldson