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Pro-Russian Rebels Lower Demands at Peace Talks

By Vladimir Isachenkov and Jim Heintz

Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)



  • Andrei Purgin, a pro-Russian rebel leader, c, stands with Mikhail Zurabov, Russias ambassador to Ukraine, in Minsk.
    Photo: Dmitry Brushko / AP

MOSCOW Pro-Russian rebels softened their demand for full independence Monday, saying they would respect Ukraines sovereignty in exchange for autonomy a shift that reflects Moscows desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks.

The insurgents platform, released at the start of Mondays negotiations in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, represented a significant change in their vision for the future of Ukraines eastern, mainly Russian-speaking region.

It remains unclear, however, whether the talks can reach a compromise amid the brutal fighting that has continued in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, the rebels pushed Ukrainian government forces from an airport near Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city, the latest in a series of military gains.

The peace talks in Minsk follow last weeks meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko. The negotiations involve former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma; Russias ambassador to Ukraine; an envoy from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and representatives of the rebels.

Yet similar talks earlier this summer produced no visible results.

Unlike the previous rounds, this time rebels said in a statement carried by Russias RIA Novosti news agency that they are willing to discuss the preservation of the united economic, cultural and political space of Ukraine. In return, they demanded a comprehensive amnesty and broad local powers that would include being able to appoint their own local law enforcement officials.

This deal is only for eastern Ukraine. There are no negotiations on handing back Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in March, a move that cost Ukraine several major ports, half its coastline and untold billions in Black Sea oil and mineral rights.

The talks lasted for several hours Monday and were adjourned until Friday, when the parties are to discuss a cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners, rebel negotiator Andrei Purgin said, according to RIA Novosti.

The rebels more moderate negotiating platform appeared to reflect Putins desire to make a deal that would allow Russia to avoid more punitive Western sanctions while preserving a significant degree of leverage over its neighbor.

Over the weekend, the European Union leaders agreed to prepare a new round of sanctions that could be enacted in a week, after NATO accused Russia of sending tanks and troops into southeastern Ukraine. A NATO summit in Wales on Thursday is also expected to approve measures designed to counter Russias aggressive actions in Ukraine.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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