Denis Pushilin, foreground center, spokesman of the self-appointed Donetsk People’s Republic, speaks to reporters inside the regional administration building seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, April 18, 2014.
Sergei Grits—AP
April 18, 2014 7:48 AM EDT

Pro-Russian militants refused on Friday to vacate government buildings they’ve been occupying in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, defying a deal struck on Thursday to ease tensions along the border with Russia.

Diplomats from the U.S. and E.U. brokered a cautious deal with Ukraine and Russia to have all buildings illegally seized by the militants cleared out and all paramilitary groups disarmed. But the armed men allied with Moscow has demanded that the interim government in Kiev give up power first, the Associated Press reports.

“This is a reasonable agreement but everyone should vacate the buildings, and that includes [acting Prime Minister Aseniy] Yatsenyuk and [acting President Oleksandr] Turchynov,” said Denis Pushilin, a spokesman for the self-professed Donetsk People’s Republic. “[Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov did not sign anything for us, he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation,” he added. Pushilin wants residents to be able to decide whether they want sovereignty, CNN reports.

The agreement, which was struck in Geneva, promises amnesty for militants and protesters who cooperate fully, though tensions remain high in eastern Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama were both reluctant to declare the effort a victory. “I think there is the possibility, the prospect, that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation,” Obama said Thursday. “We’re not going to know whether there is follow-through on these statements for several days.”


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