Ukraine crisis: Foreign Ministers agree on steps to ease tensions as Vladimir Putin defends Russia's right to bear arms

A tentative deal between Moscow, Washington and Brussels to calm tensions has been struck. But the Russian President remains defiant – and dangerous

Brussels

Russia, the United States and the European Union have announced a tentative deal to pull Ukraine back from the brink of a violent break up, but in a bullish statement just hours earlier President Vladimir Putin insisted he still had a right to send troops into the country.

Relations between Russia and the West are at their frostiest since the Cold War, with US and European politicians openly accusing Moscow of orchestrating the armed separatist uprisings breaking out across eastern Ukraine. All sides issued a joint statement calling on the groups to disarm, but the US was clear that the onus was on Russia to act quickly or face the debilitating economic sanctions they have been threatening for weeks.

“We fully expect the Russians to demonstrate their seriousness by insisting that the pro-Russian separatists they have been supporting lay down their arms, leave the buildings and pursue their political objectives through the constitutional processes,” the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said in Geneva after a day of talks with his EU, Ukrainian and Russian counterparts. “If we’re not able to see progress on efforts to implement the principle of the agreement this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.”

Mr Kerry also expressed concern about reports that Jewish people in one Ukrainian city had received notes asking them to identify themselves to pro-Russians. Local press reported leaflets being handed out around a synagogue in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine demanding that the city’s Jews provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked”.

 

His Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, commended the deal but denied any accusations that the Kremlin was behind the recent unrest. “We have no wish to insert our military forces into Ukraine,” he said. The ministers also agreed an amnesty for most of the separatist protesters and an increased role for a monitoring mission from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The announcement came hours after Mr Putin’s annual question-and-answer session with the Russian public, in which he said he had the right to send troops into Ukraine and poured scorn on threats from the West to impose sanctions on Moscow.

There were also some conciliatory notes, with the President calling the Geneva negotiations “very important”. But his televised comments were laced with derision for European and American foreign policy. Mr Putin said claims that he was behind the unrest in Ukraine were “nonsense”, and reminded the world that Russian parliament had on 1 March authorised him to send troops into Ukraine if ethnic Russians were attacked.

“The Federation Council granted the President the right to use military force in Ukraine. I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today’s pressing issues via political and diplomatic means,” he said. “We must do everything to help these people [in eastern Ukraine] defend their rights and independently determine their own destiny.”

Asked about Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova which Russia protects but has not tried to draw into its territory, Mr Putin said that “people should be allowed to determine their own destiny” – words that may concern some of Russia’s neighbours.

Nato members close to Russian borders have been calling for more military assistance in light of events in Crimea, which followed the ousting of the pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych. The US also announced that it was sending non-lethal military support to the Ukrainian authorities.

Mr Putin was scathing of efforts so far to chastise Russia for the annexation of Crimea. Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian officials have been subjected to asset freezes and travel bans, and the EU and US have threatened to expand those lists or move on to the next stage of deeper economic sanctions if Russia does not make good on its promises.

Asked about the sanctions, Mr Putin said that the EU would not be able to manage without Russian gas. “They badly want to bite us, but their opportunities are limited,” he said. “If they try to punish us by putting us into a corner on our knees like naughty children, they will cut the branch they are sitting on.”

Read more: Putin asserts Russia's 'right' to invade Ukraine
Deals brokered in a distant land will not satisfy protesters
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick