There was real progress towards solving the crisis in Ukraine. Now the talks must be put into action

More common ground has been established than even the most optimistic had predicted, raising a real possibility of the crisis being brought to a peaceable solution

Share

When the so-called “big four” met in Geneva to discuss the crisis in Ukraine yesterday morning, they did so against a far from promising backdrop. Even as the US Secretary of State, the Russian Foreign Minister, Ukraine’s interim Foreign Minister and the EU foreign policy chief were getting down to business, the row over whether armed separatists in eastern cities such as Donetsk were – or were not – special forces from over the border showed no sign of abating. Meanwhile, in a four-hour public phone-in, Vladimir Putin acknowledged that his troops had been in Crimea ahead of its pre-annexation referendum, and said that he “very much hoped” not to have to exercise his country’s “right to use military force” in eastern Ukraine, too.

How different the mood was when the protagonists in Geneva took to their respective post-conference podia in the afternoon. Contrary to expectations, the list of agreements came thick and fast. First, all sides must refrain from the use of violence, all armed groups must give up their weapons, and all occupied government buildings must be vacated forthwith (with protesters guaranteed amnesty for all but capital crimes).

Second, to help restore order and stamp out a rise in divisiveness, racism and anti-Semitism that US Secretary of State John Kerry described as “grotesque”, the monitors from OSCE – the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe – who are already in the country will expand their operations to assist Ukrainian authorities to regain control. To underline the new spirit of unity, Europe, the US and Russia will all also provide extra monitors.

Finally, and of no less consequence, the interim government in Kiev has committed to a “comprehensive and inclusive” process for constitutional change, canvassing opinion across all regions and ensuring the participation of all social groups and political parties.

As Mr Kerry put it, yesterday’s efforts were, indeed, “a good day’s work”. Even as Ukraine was sliding dangerously towards civil war, the stand-off between Russia and the West was alarmingly reminiscent of the Cold War. Now more common ground has been established than even the most optimistic had predicted, raising a real possibility of the crisis being brought to a peaceable solution.

There is many a slip ’twixt cup and lip, however. Despite restraint from Kiev, scuffles between the authorities and pro-Russian protesters have been on the rise in recent days. With tensions running so high and so many armed groups, the risk of disturbance remains.

Much hinges on Russia, of course. Mr Lavrov called convincingly for a cessation of violence. But it remains to be seen whether Moscow will make good on the promise by withdrawing its clandestine support for the militants. Equally, Kiev will have to act equally quickly if its pledges of inclusivity and reform are to prove sufficiently convincing to opponents both within the country and outside it.

The situation in Ukraine is no simple matter. All sides have legitimate concerns. The Geneva talks have made a hugely welcome start. But the test will come in the days ahead. Unless there is evidence of immediate progress on the ground in the days ahead, yesterday’s agreements will be powerless to stop the chaos.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emily Thornberry  

Left-leaning patriots unite! Let's get straight about Ukip

Katy Guest
Gary Catona has worked with a number of high profile singers including Stevie Wonder, pictured  

High pitch: In search of the next Whitney

Simmy Richman
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin