- Timeout April 19
Noting diplomatic progress between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian officials decided to halt the country's "anti-terrorist operation" for the Easter holiday.
Pro-Russian militants are occupying various government buildings in eastern Ukraine. They remained behind their barricades, firm on their pledge not to concede unless Ukraine's "illegal" government steps down.
While the United States, Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine brokered an agreement on Thursday meant to de-escalate the conflict, pro-Russia activists in Ukraine said because they were not included in the talks at Geneva, they were under no obligation to suspend their activities.
"Why would we leave? Who told us to leave?" a man who gave his name as Alexander told The Washington Post. "Nobody in Geneva who signed this agreement gives a damn about us. They're interested in gas deals, in coal, in drilling. They don't care about us."
Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's assurances that he will go along with the deal, Washington was already skeptical as to whether Moscow would honor the agreement. The worries are in large part based on comments Putin made at a Russian press conference, where he described eastern Ukraine as "new Russia," and said he is prepared to use force — which the Russian Duma has authorized — if necessary in Ukraine.
Mounting tensions aside, some militants took advantage of the hiatus to go about traditional Easter weekend activities, such as receiving blessings from religious leaders who visited the barricaded areas. Hopefully those blessings come with a promise of peace. --Sarah Eberspacher
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