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Putin expresses support for cease-fire in Ukraine

June 22, 2014 at 4:57 PM EDT
Russian president Vladimir Putin expressed his support in Moscow today for a cease-fire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Alison Stewart speaks with Andrew Roth, reporting for the New York Times from Donetsk, about the ongoing situation in the country.

ALISON STEWART: In Moscow today Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for a cease fire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist in Eastern Ukraine. Putin conferred by phone today with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande about the lingering crisis.

For more about the situation in Ukraine were joined now via Skype by Andrew Roth of the New York Times. He’s reporting tonight form Donetsk. Andrew let me ask you, what is life like in Donetsk now that now that we have you here, is it seem like a city in the heart of a crisis?

ANDREW ROTH: You know Alison, this has been happening for a little while now, I think that there are towns that a more at the epicenter of the fighting and in places like Slovyansk sort of a rebel stronghold not far from here.

Life has changed a lot, there are serious problems with water, lack of electricity and you know more than 200, more than 300 people would have been injured in the fighting so far.

Donetsk just feels very empty, quiet a lot of closed shops and a lot of people who found a way to get out of the city for the summer.

ALISON STEWART: It’s interesting that you would mention that because I was surfing the Moscow Times website and there’s a huge article there where the headline says ‘In parts of East Ukraine, a daily struggle to survive’ in the town that you mentioned.

In terms of the humanitarian crisis, who is that going to put pressure on and cynically who can use it to their advantage?

ANDREW ROTH: Well I think that the humanitarian crisis of course is going to put the most pressure on Petro Poroshenko on Ukrainian government to really avoid being tainted by sort of a really bad humanitarian crisis taking place in the east of the country.

So that would put more pressure on them to stop what they call the anti-terrorist operation here in the east, but it also put some pressure on Moscow too, because a lot of the separatist leaders here have said that they want Moscow to bring in humanitarian aid, or  they want Moscow to bring in peace keeping troops and so far Moscow has demurred on any sort of response to those request.

ALISON STEWART: Andrew, in a Times piece about the proposed cease fire, it was described as Putin’s reaction was a carrot and a stick. What’s the carrot?  What’s the stick?

ANDREW ROTH: So I think that the carrot in this case is that Russia would really be on board for some sort of peace plan, and that they can call and would call for the Russian separatist, the pro-Russian separatist in the east of the country  to put down their arms and that’s the carrot here.

The stick of course is always, is the possibility of the militarization of the border, more build up and as you know, Russia has put 65,000 troops on combat alert, and is holding drills right now. I don’t think we’re quite at the place where we were in April when many of those troops were on the border.

NATO say as many as 40,000 but there is still this question of, there is always a possibility of a Russian intervention too, and it’s very possible that a decision to put those troops on combat alert was an indication of that.

ALISON STEWART:  Andrew Roth of the New York Times reporting form Donetsk thank you so much for sharing your reporting.

ANDREW ROTH: Thank you.