A day after the United States said it was preparing more sanctions against Russia, diplomats from both countries sat down for a chat. And they actually agreed on something.
Representatives from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union have reached an agreement about ongoing tensions after seven hours of negotiations in Geneva. The meetings coincided with a faltering "antiterrorist campaign" by Kiev against pro-Russian separatists, who have stormed Ukrainian government buildings this month. The Ukrainian military is no match for Russian forces, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said his Parliament has allowed him to use military force to defend pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine.
Here's what Thursday's agreement entails:
- All sides must refrain from violence, intimidation, and provocation.
- Illegally armed groups in Ukraine have to give up their weapons.
- The government buildings just inside the Ukrainian border recently seized by pro-Russian separatists must be returned to Ukrainian control.
- Protesters who comply with the above demands will be granted amnesty, except for those who are found to have committed capital crimes.
Monitors from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will now be dispatched to Ukraine to enforce the requirements of the agreement.
"All of this, we are convinced, represents a good day's work," Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press conference after the meetings. "It has produced commitments and it has produced words on paper."
However, he continued, "words on paper will only mean what the actions that are taken as a result of those words produce. So it is absolutely clear now that these words are immediately translated into action."
In other words: Your move, Moscow.
The agreement creates a lull in anxiety for European countries, whose officials worried about imposing economic sanctions and forcing Moscow to retaliate, cutting them off from energy supplies. It also eases the pressure on the White House to act quickly with additional sanctions. But the situation remains tenuous. Kerry's remarks suggest he's more than a little skeptical about how Russia will follow through on pulling back from Ukraine. And why shouldn't he be? Putin's question-and-answer session with media this morning was a near duplicate of statements he made a month ago—right before he annexed Crimea.