Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

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A masked pro-Russian activist guards looks through a window of the regional administration building seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A masked pro-Russian activist guards looks through a window of the regional administration building seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

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, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pushilin told reporters that the insurgents do not recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A flag flutters in the wind over barricades at the regional administration building that has been seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks to lawmakers during a session at the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

This photo taken throughout a window shows people at barricades at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 18, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east who have been occupying government buildings in more than 10 cities said Friday they will only leave them if the interim government in Kiev resigns.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

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DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Dashing hopes of progress raised by a diplomatic deal in Geneva, pro-Russian insurgents who have occupied government buildings in more than 10 Ukrainian cities said Friday they will not leave them until the country’s interim government resigns.

Denis Pushilin of the self-appointed Donetsk People’s Republic told reporters the insurgents do not recognize the Ukrainian government as legitimate.

Ukraine and Russia on Thursday agreed in Geneva to take tentative steps toward calming tensions along their shared border after weeks of conflict since Ukraine’s former leader fled to Russia in February and Russia annexed Crimea in March. The deal calls for disarming all paramilitary groups and the immediate return of all government buildings seized across the country.

But Pushilin, speaking at the insurgent-occupied regional headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk, said the deal specifies that all illegally seized buildings should be vacated. He said Ukraine’s new interim government in the capital, Kiev, is also occupying public buildings illegally.

“This is a reasonable agreement but everyone should vacate the buildings and that includes (Arseniy) Yatsenyuk and (Oleksandr) Turchynov,” he said referring to the acting Ukrainian prime minister and president.

Ukraine has scheduled a presidential election for May 25, but Pushilin reiterated a call to hold a referendum on self-determination for the Donetsk region by May 11.

Ukraine has faced months of turmoil, first in Kiev by protesters angry that former President Viktor Yanukovych wanted closer ties with Russia instead of Europe, then in eastern Ukraine, by those who want better ties with Russia. Now many of the buildings in the east occupied by the tacitly Moscow-supported insurgents are in the hands of highly trained gunmen, a situation that has complicated authorities’ plans to retake them.

Pushilin said the insurgents would not handover their weapons until the government halts efforts to reclaim the occupied buildings.

“As far disarmament goes, the Kiev junta has already begun violating its agreements since yesterday, by announcing that it will not pull its troops out of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk,” Pushilin said, referring to two cities occupied by the insurgency.

Despite announcing a security operation with great fanfare, the government in Kiev has taken few practical measures to reclaim its buildings.

Kiev-based political analyst Vasim Karasyov said Ukraine’s fledgling government does not have the resources to resolve the standoff in eastern Ukraine militarily, so it’s going to have to negotiate with the pro-Russian protesters.

“(Kiev) should finally listen to the demands of those people,” he said. “They don’t even know what their demands are. Maybe they are reasonable. The government in Kiev is pretending that there are no problems in the east.”

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament Friday that the government has drafted a law to offer amnesty to all those willing to lay down their arms and leave occupied government buildings.

In Washington, President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism late Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate the volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies were ready to impose more sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments.

“My hope is we do see follow-through,” Obama said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday emphasized that the requirement to abandon occupied building applied to all parties. But although Russia has declined to recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine’s interim government, it has not said they should vacate their offices.

Instead, the reference appears to be to groups such as the ultranationalist Right Sector movement, whose activists are occupying Kiev city hall and a Kiev cultural center.

The barricade-lined space in front of the Donetsk regional administration building, a mustering point for pro-Russian supporters, was almost totally empty Friday despite the warm weather. Patriotic Soviet-era music blared over loudspeakers as a few dozen, mainly elderly, people sat around chatting.

One man in the square, 56-year-old militia member Igor

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