DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.
Denis Pushilin, a chairman of the self-appointed Donetsk People’s Republic, told reporters that the insurgents do not recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate.
Ukraine and Russia on Thursday agreed to take tentative steps toward calming tensions along their shared border after weeks of conflict. But Pushilin, speaking at the insurgent-occupied regional administration’s building in Donetsk, said the deal specifies that all illegally seized buildings should be vacated, and in his opinion the government in Kiev is also occupying public buildings illegally.
“This is a reasonable agreement but everyone should vacate the buildings and that includes Yatsenyuk and Turchynov,” he said referring to the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president. He reiterated the call for a referendum that he said will allow “self-determination of the people.”
The deal agreed in Geneva calls for disarming all paramilitary groups and the immediate return of all government buildings seized across the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the time emphasized that that applies to all parties, including protesters in Kiev.
Russia did not demand that that the new government leave the buildings, even though Moscow has not recognized it.
Neither the Ukrainian government nor the Right Sector movement, whose activists are occupying Kiev’s city hall and a cultural center in the capital, commented Friday.
The Russian foreign ministry also had no immediate comment, but pro-Russian Ukrainian presidential candidate Oleh Tsaryov, whose statements often echo Moscow’s stance, said in comments carried by the Russian state RIA Novosti news agency on Friday that Right Sector activists should be the first to lay down their arms and that Ukrainian servicemen who have unsuccessfully tried to regain control over parts of eastern Ukraine should return to their quarters.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the parliament Friday morning that the government has drafted a law that would offer amnesty to all those who will be willing to lay down their arms and leave the occupied government buildings.
Kiev-based political analyst Vasim Karasyov said Ukraine’s fledgling government does not have the resources to resolve the stand-off in eastern Ukraine militarily, so it is going to have to negotiate with the pro-Russian protesters.
Kiev “should finally listen to the demands of those people, what they want,” he said. “They don’t even know what their demands are; maybe they are reasonable. The government in Kiev is pretending as if there are no problems in the east.”
Vasilyeva reported from Kiev. Laura Mills contributed to this report from Moscow.