Ukraine rebels snub Putin

2014-05-09 09:01
Vladimir Putin. (File: AFP)

Vladimir Putin. (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Donetsk - Pro-Moscow rebels fighting in east Ukraine vowed on Thursday to press on with disputed independence referendums, defying a call from President Vladimir Putin to postpone the vote in a bid to ease tensions.

"The vote will happen on May 11," the leader of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, declared to reporters.

There were fears that Ukraine could still erupt in fresh violence on Friday when both it and Russia celebrate the Soviet victory in World War II.

There were some reports that Putin could make a triumphant entry into Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her concern to Putin about this possibility, her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday. "He left the answer open about whether he would personally attend".

The Cold War-style tension was ratcheted up another notch on Thursday as Russia conducted military drills, including test-firing ballistic missiles, and said Ukraine would now have to prepay for its crucial gas imports.

A display of tanks, missile systems and fighter jets on Red Square Friday will help mark the WWII victory over the Nazis.

Pushilin said Thursday, to applause from members of the "republic's" ruling council, that "the people's desire to hold the referendum is becoming even greater".

'The Donetsk People's Republic'

On Sunday, people in the restive eastern region will be called to answer one simple question: "Do you support the declaration of independence by the Donetsk People's Republic?"

Insurgents in the other main rebel-held towns of Slavyansk and Lugansk also declared they would hold a plebiscite.

The European Union, whose foreign ministers meet on Monday to consider further sanctions against Russia, said the referendums "could have no democratic legitimacy and would only further worsen the situation".

The referendum move dashed hopes of diffusing the crisis after Putin on Wednesday made a surprise call to the rebels to postpone their plebiscites.

In a stunning about-face, the Kremlin strongman also backed a presidential election planned by Kiev's interim leaders on 25 May that Moscow had only recently described as "absurd".

'Undeclared war'

Putin had previously said that Kiev must cease its military operations in the east in return for Moscow's backing of the 25 May election.

But on Thursday, Kiev vowed to press forward with what it calls an "anti-terrorist" operation against insurgents holding a dozen or so towns and cities in the east.

"The counterterrorist operation will go on regardless of any decisions by any subversive or terrorist groups in the Donetsk region," Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine's national security and defence council, told reporters.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in a speech marking the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany that the former Soviet republic was facing "a real albeit undeclared war".

Putin had also said Wednesday after his meeting with OSCE chair and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter that Russia had withdrawn its estimated 40 000 troops from the Ukrainian border.

But Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Warsaw he had yet to see "any indications" that Russia had actually done so.

As diplomatic efforts intensified to defuse the worst crisis between Moscow and the West since the Cold War, the secretary general of the OSCE flew into Kiev to continue mediation.

 'Just a mockery

Putin's surprise proposals sparked mixed reactions from a sceptical West.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier welcomed the "constructive tone" of Putin's comments.

But the Ukrainian foreign ministry issued a statement saying Putin's call to push back the referendums was "just a mockery and by no means a sign of goodwill" because the votes were illegal.

Ukraine has lost 14 troops and three helicopter gunships with 66 servicemen injured in the assault on the rebels. The fighting has also claimed the lives of more than 30 on the insurgent side.

The majority of the fighting has taken place around the town of Slavyansk.

Clashes that resulted in a horrific inferno in the southern port city of Odessa last week claimed another 42 lives, most of them pro-Russian activists, pushing the death toll over the past week to nearly 90.

The violence has prompted many Western politicians to warn that the country of 46 million people is slipping towards a civil war that would imperil peace in Europe.

The unrest also shattered a peace deal struck in Geneva on 17 April that called for the insurgents to lay down their arms.

But politicians have stressed that diplomacy is still the preferred way to solve the crisis and Putin has accepted an invitation from French President Francois Hollande to attend D-Day celebrations in June.

US President Barack Obama, who will not meet Putin one-on-one at the commemoration, vowed to step up his sanctions against whole areas of the recession-threatened Russian economy.

Germany, and Europe as a whole, face the prospect of imminent energy shortages after Russia ordered crisis-hit Ukraine to pay upfront for all its natural gas deliveries.

The largely-anticipated announcement imperils supplies to a large swathe of the European Union because nearly 15% of all Russian gas consumed by the 28-nation bloc transits through Ukraine.
Read more on:    barack obama  |  vladimir putin  |  us  |  russia  |  ukraine

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn
11 things men don’t know about their clothes

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Lead Architect / ASP.NET Specialist

Cape Town
E-Merge IT Recruitment
R350 000 - R450 000 Per Hour

Head of Payroll

Cape Town
O'Brien Recruitment
R450 000 - R500 000 Per Year


Cape Town Southern Suburbs
Anchor Executive Recruitment (Pty) Ltd
R8 999 - R9 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

24 hour sale – Up to 70% off

Its black Friday, save up to 70% on a wide range of awesome products at Offers valid while stocks last. T&C’s apply. Shop now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.