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Pro-Russian protesters in Eastern Ukraine hold their ground despite tentative deal

April 18, 2014 at 6:07 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite Thursday’s surprise agreement by the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union to de-escalate tensions in Eastern Ukraine, there’s little evidence that any of the terms of the deal are taking hold in the country.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News is in Donetsk, and she filed this report.

LINDSEY HILSUM: He was tidying up, not tearing down, his barricade, the man in the World of Tanks T-shirt. He and his friends have no intention of handing back the armored vehicle they seized from Ukrainian troops.

In fact, in Slavyansk today, it was clear that none of the pro-Russian protesters were going anywhere. People I have been talking to say they’re not very interested in what was decided in Geneva yesterday. And they’re not going to abandon the municipal buildings they have taken over or take down their barricades until the government goes, because, they say, how did this government in Kiev get to power? Exactly like this, by staying out on the streets.

A Ukrainian MiG fighter flew overhead. The authorities in Kiev may rule the skies, but they have little power here on the ground.

WOMAN (through interpreter): We will not remove the barricades until these jets and tanks have gone. They’re threatening to shoot us and our children.

LINDSEY HILSUM: So, are you going to take these barricades down, like they said you should in Geneva?

MAN (through interpreter): We will only go when people are left in peace, when we have freedom.

LINDSEY HILSUM: It was the same story in the regional capital, where the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said he’d only leave his government building if the president and prime minister in Kiev did likewise.

DENIS PUSHILIN, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpreter): This is an absolutely nominal agreement, but everyone has to leave the buildings, including comrades Yatsenyuk and Turchynov, who also occupy their place as the illegal result of a military coup. After they do, we will agree to follow suit.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Then presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko came to town.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO, Presidential Candidate (through interpreter): The purpose of my visit is to understand what Ukrainians who live in Donetsk are demanding from the central government. I would like to listen to these demands myself and find out how serious they are, to find a necessary compromise between East and West that will allow us to unify the country.

LINDSEY HILSUM: She’s not much loved here, but would like to be.

In parliament in Kiev, they were blaming Russia for everything, while also trying to sound conciliatory, hoping to hang on for the elections in a month’s time. The tension has, to some extent, abated in Eastern Ukraine, but nothing’s resolved, and the government in Kiev seems powerless to change that.