Victoria Nuland’s man in Kiev, Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk, ventured into the city of Donetsk—a hotbed of anti-coup protests—Friday, for a three-hour visit, where he announced a set of measures reportedly (by Britain’s Independent) designed to prevent the country from breaking up. He announced that proposals to devolve power to the regions were being considered—albeit short of the growing demand for a federal system in Ukraine—and he promised that use of the Russian language would be respected, though he was short on specifics apart from stating that his own wife mainly speaks Russian.
The Independent reported that the mayors of the three cities where anti-coup protests—using the tactics of the Maidan itself—have been taking place, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, are blaming Interior Minister Arsen Avakov for escalating the confrontation. Avakov had issued an ultimatum to protesters in Donetsk and Luhansk to surrender their weapons and disperse, or else. He also charged that there were separatists in the local administrations, a claim that Kharkiv Mayor Gennadi Kernes took great exception to. “Be responsible for your words,” he told Avakov, in an apparently joint appearance. “How can we work together if there is such disrespect?”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out the double standards being applied by the West and the Kiev regime to protests in Ukraine. In an interview with Channel One Russia, Friday, Lavrov said that the anti-Yanukovych protestors who used violence and seized government buildings in Kiev have since amnestied themselves, but the amnesty law will only be applied to those in southeast Ukraine who did not take part in mass riots, Lavrov said. “It turns out that they totally amnestied themselves, but decided to press charges against those people who attempted—quite gently—to simulate what had happened in Maidan,” Lavrov said.
In a phone call Saturday with Ukrainian Acting Foreign Minsiter Deshchytsa, Lavrov strongly denied that the protesters in eastern Ukraine were Russian agents.
Further building seizures Saturday in Slavyansk, near Donestsk, were trumpeted in the international media as being done “Crimea-style” by Russian agents in uniforms without insignia, but Russian TV carried man-in-the-street interviews showing otherwise. Slavyansk Mayor Nelya Stopa took the bullhorn to tell a crowd of citizens around the city hall, that the people occupying the building were “our Donetsk Militia.” Russian TV interviewed former officers of the disbanded Ukrainian Berkut special forces, who have now donned their previous uniforms, saying that “we won’t shoot our own people.” Amid reports of widespread refusals by law enforcement in eastern Ukraine to crack down on the demonstrators and building-occupiers, Ukrainian Acting President Turchynov today fired the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) for the Donetsk Region.