Ukraine Liveblog Day 68: New Sanctions Threatened But “Door Remains Open”

April 26, 2014
Russian-backed gunmen search trucks at a checkpoint in Slavyansk on April 25 | CNN

After OSCE Monitors were kidnapped by Russian-backed gunmen in Slavyansk, and after Russian aircraft have repeatedly violated Ukrainian airspace, both the G-7 and the EU say they have come up with plans for new sanctions against Russia.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Slavyansk Separatists Demand Prisoner Swap For OSCE Observers

Reuters reports that the Russian-backed separatists are saying that they would release the OSCE observers who were kidnapped yesterday if Kiev agreed to release several political figures who are currently in prison on accusations of fostering separatism:

Asked about a prisoner exchange, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, de facto mayor of Slaviansk, told reporters: “The Kiev junta has our fellows and comrades therefore, if there is a possibility, we are ready for an exchange.”

“They (members of the observer mission) are in alright condition. One of the soldiers suffers from diabetes, but it is not a serious condition, he is on tablets. There is medicine there is food,” said Ponomaryov.

“They were soldiers on our territory without our permission, of course they are prisoners,” he said. “We won’t know what to do until we determine who they are, what kind of activities, for what purpose they came here.”

AFP reporters observed that, “rebels had fortified the barricades around the security services building where [the OSCE monitors] were being held with sandbags and a machine-gun.”

According to Reuters, Moscow made statements that they were in contact with the militants in order to negotiate the release of the monitors, but the separatist leader in Slavyansk denies that report.

It’s also worth noting that Russia has also criticized the arrest of several politicians on grounds that they were fostering separatism. On Thursday Russia requested that the ICRC and the OSCE visit one of the prisoners, and today both organizations have agreed to do so. The Russian state-operated news/propaganda outlet ITAR-TASS reports

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Kiev have agreed on a visit to Donetsk people’s governor Pavel Gubarev, who has been under arrest since March 6 on trumped-up charges.

The visit will be paid at 18:00 Kiev time on Saturday, April 26, by OSCE officials currently in Ukraine, ICRC spokesperson for Europe and Central Asia David-Peirre Marquet told ITAR-TASS.

The G-7 and the EU Agree On More Sanctions For Russia

In the wake of Russian-backed gunmen capturing an OSCE monitoring team, the G-7 (the G-8 minus Russia) has announced that they have agreed on passing new sanctions against Russia. The EU will also announce new sanctions on Monday. Reuters reports:

U.S. officials said new sanctions targeting “cronies” of President Vladimir Putin could be unveiled as early as Monday unless Russia moved fast to defuse the crisis.
In a joint statement, G7 leaders said Russia had not taken any concrete steps to implement an accord, signed in Geneva, intended to rein in illegal armed groups.
“Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military maneuvers on Ukraine’s border,” it said.

“We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia.”

But it added: “We underscore that the door remains open to a diplomatic resolution of this crisis.”

The European Union will name 15 more Russians subject to asset freezes and a travel ban on Monday and senior EU diplomats will meet the same day to discuss the next steps, EU sources said.