U.S., Russia Reach a Tentative Deal to Calm Tensions Over Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met and agreed on a plan this afternoon that aims at de-escalating the rising war of words over Ukraine, backing off of military options, and letting the nation determine its own destiny.

The deal was brokered less than an hour ago by all the parties, who met in Geneva for talks. It requires both Ukrainians and pro-Russian forces to disarm illegal groups, eschew violence and anti-semitism, and work on a blueprint for restoring political order to the country.

Whether those terms can actually be met is unclear, given Russian machinations and the muddy status of paramilitary groups that claim allegiance to the Kremlin and have taken control of key parts of Eastern Ukraine. Kerry expressed special concern about anti-semitism in the nation, referencing a report from earlier today that Jews in Donetsk were being ordered to register with the local pro-Russian militia.

"Notices were sent to Jews in one city indicating that they had to identify themselves as Jews," he said. "In the year of 2014... this is not just intolerable, it is grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable."

Here is the U.S./Russia joint statement detailing the agreement, via the Guardian:

The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.

All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-semitism.

All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.

Amnesty will be granted to protestors and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes.

It was agreed that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The U.S., E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.

The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine's regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.

The participants underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented.

[Photo credit: AP]