As pro-Russian Ukrainians in key eastern cities continued to build barricades around occupied government buildings on Wednesday, high-level direct talks aimed at a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine have been officially announced for next week in Europe.
With tensions again at worrying levels after protests in the cities of Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv led to confrontations between government security forces and those demanding independence from Kiev, the news of the talks is a hopeful sign that further violence can be avoided.
According to reports, next week's meeting—the exact time and location of which has not been announced—will include EU Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and, importantly, Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia.
The Guardian reports:
News of the meeting emerged as a tense standoff between pro-Russian sectarianists and Ukraine security forces continued in the country's east.
Ukraine's security service has said that 56 people held inside a local headquarters in the eastern city of Luhansk occupied by pro-Russian separatists have been allowed to leave the premises.
The Luhansk security services building was among several government offices seized by pro-Moscow groups on Sunday in an escalation of protests against the interim government in power since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February.
With the crisis in eastern Ukraine deepening, Russia sought on Wednesday to ease concerns in Kiev and the west over the presence of troops near the border with Ukraine and denied it was considering invading eastern Ukraine.
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"The United States and Ukraine have no reason to be worried," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "Russia has stated many times that it is not carrying out any unusual or unplanned activity on its territory near the border with Ukraine that would be of military significance."
During testimony to the US Senate on Tuesday, Kerry told the Foreign Relations Committee that Russia was creating a "contrived crisis" in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for intervention and possible annexation of territory.
But as investigative journalist and commenter Robert Parry points, that argument and the overall narrative that has been pushed on the American people by the White House and a pliant U.S. mainstream press since the overthrow of Ukraine's former government earlier this year betrays the nefarious role that U.S. and European policies have played in creating the current situation in Ukraine.
The way the [U.S. media] now summarizes the Feb. 22 coup is simply to say that President Viktor Yanukovych fled after weeks of protests by Ukrainians who favored “good government” and opposed “corruption,” as the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.
Airbrushed out of the picture is the fact that the uprising had financial support and political encouragement from U.S. officials, including neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and the neocon-controlled, U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy.
Also, disappearing from the frame was the inconvenient truth that neo-Nazi militants organized themselves from the start as paramilitary units with the intent of staging a violent putsch against Yanukovych’s elected government.
[This] simplistic narrative turned this complex Ukrainian reality into a morality play of good guys vs. bad guys, the noble protesters against the nasty Yanukovych backed by the even nastier Russian President Vladimir Putin.