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Friday, April 18, 2014

Skeptics on all sides take aim of John Kerry’s tentative deal on Ukraine -- Obama, Putin, EU lob a fresh round of threats -- By Dave Boyer, The Washington Times

Secretary of State John F. Kerry reached a tentative agreement Thursday with Russia's foreign minister to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine by disarming militias, but tensions remained high as three pro-Russian separatists were killed in clashes and Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of plunging the country into an abyss.

In the first such talks since Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine last month, the diplomats in Geneva agreed that all sides would refrain from violence and that all "illegal armed groups will be disarmed." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the agreement "a compromise of sorts" after more than six hours of meetings with Mr. Kerry, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

A joint statement issued by the parties also calls for the return of "all illegally seized buildings to legitimate owners" in Ukraine. Pro-Russia separatists in recent weeks have seized Ukrainian government buildings in 10 cities in the eastern part of the country.

The document didn't address the 40,000 Russian troops who the U.S. says are massed on Ukraine's eastern and southern borders.

President Obama expressed skepticism that the agreement would hold.

"I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point," Mr. Obama said during an afternoon news conference at the White House. "We're not going to know whether there's follow-through [by Russia] on these statements for several days. I don't think, given past performance, we can count on that."

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