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Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland for over seven hours, diplomats from the aforementioned countries called for the disarming of all illegally armed groups, and agreed to temporarily call of a slew of sanctions Western countries had prepared to slap on Russia.
“We wanted to find concrete steps, not just words, but concrete steps that could be acted on immediately in order to defuse the situation,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva, following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
However, Russian troops will remain on the border with Ukraine.
A joint statement from the Ukraine Contact Group also condemned “all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.”
This came in response to reports that Jews in some parts of the Ukraine were being intimidated and asked to register with local authorities.
In a daytime news conference, US President Barack Obama said that the agreement also ensured that Russian-speakers and those of Russian ethnicity will be protected by the full letter of the law.
He reiterated Kerry’s earlier statement that the agreement in Geneva late Thursday was the beginning of a process of de-escalation and that sanctions against Russia would remain a viable option should Moscow not work with the Contact Group to back away from the two-month crisis.
A few hours before the agreement was announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the audience during a televised Q&A session that the only way to resolve the crisis in the Ukraine was through dialogue, and added that he hoped there would be no reason to send troops into the east of the country.
However, he blamed Ukraine authorities for resorting to violence and committing “a serious crime” by using its military apparatus to deal with pro-Russian groups who were demanding their legitimate rights.
In the past week, Russian militia seized 10 cities in eastern Ukraine.
Putin also denied that Russian special forces were in Eastern Ukraine and said the only instance of sending troops was to protect Moscow’s bases in Crimea.
The Geneva agreement came on the heels of the fiercest clashes to date between the Russian militia, three of whom were reported killed, and the Ukrainian military.