Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Ukrainian military soldiers at a highway checkpoint pass an AK-47 rifle on May 13. / John Moore, Getty Images

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine - Townspeople in the eastern Ukraine were frightened of more violence Wednesday following the killing of seven soldiers here and refusal of militants to attend peace talks.

"I am worried," said Elena Ivanovna, a teacher who was in a line to withdraw money from an ATM. "There's nothing good here. No one is sure what is going to happen in this region."

Ukraine's government opened talks on giving more autonomy to provinces in eastern Ukraine where militants have taken over buildings and held a referendum they say ended with a vote for independence.

President Oleksandr Turchynov said the Ukraine government in Kiev was ready to talk but not with pro-Russia militants, some of whom are pleading with Russia to invade and take over eastern Ukraine as it did in the Ukraine province of Crimea.

"Let's have a dialogue, let's discuss specific proposals," Turchynov said, "But those armed people who are trying to wage a war on their own country, those who are with arms in their hands trying to dictate their will, or rather the will of another country, we will use legal procedures against them and they will face justice."

Militants derided the European-backed peace plan as useless.

"We haven't received any offers to join a roundtable and dialogue," said Denis Pushilin, a militant leader in Donetsk. "If the authorities in Kiev want a dialogue, they must come here. If we go to Kiev, they will arrest us."

The call for talks come as violence continued across the region. On Tuesday the Ukraine military suffered its heaviest losses since it was sent to put down the rebellion in the east of the country in April when seven soldiers were killed in a clash outside Kramatorsk, 60 miles north of Donetsk.

Pro-Russian separatists armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons reportedly ambushed a column of Ukrainian military, hitting an armored personnel carrier, said the Ukraine Ministry of Defense.

The Ukrainian government said the deaths and peace talk offer will not stop its offensive to retake eastern cities in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, home to 6.6 million people. Many of the people are ethnic Russians who want more freedom from the government, and many are Ukrainians who want Russia to stay out of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to invade the region if the demands of ethnic Russians for more autonomy are not worked out, and has stationed 40,000 troops along the Ukraine border.

"I'm sick and tired of it," said Angelica Yurachenko, a manicurist.

She said her work had been disrupted since public services stopped and she was no longer able to take the bus or train. "This is intolerable, unbearable," she said.

The town is surrounded by roadblocks where the armed pro-Russian separatists check the passengers of the vehicles who leave and enter the town. Some roads out of the city have been completely blocked by barricades made from felled trees and piled up tires.

Kramatorsk saw heavy fighting on May 3 when Ukrainian forces took back parts of the town from pro-Russian separatists. The city is just 10 miles from the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk, which has seen some of the most violent clashes in the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

On Wednesday local residents were walking the streets of the town and shops were open but many complained about reduced services. One end of the city's main thoroughfare was blocked by three burned-out buses that had been used to block the street during the fighting between the Ukrainian army and the separatists earlier in the month.

"It's a mess," said one young man in Kramatorsk who refused to give his name for fear of retribution from militants, saying that his wife had recently been robbed in the street in broad daylight.

"No one needs this war. At least peaceful citizens don't need it," he said. "Local criminals are using it to try to get into power."

There are fears that the already struggling local economy will be further damaged by the unrest. Stepan, 54, who would only give his first name out of fear of reprisals, said that his car repair business was having trouble. He hoped both sides would negotiate a solution.

"We have to find some compromise and sit down at the roundtable," he said. "They need to solve the crisis with their heads, not their guns."

Russia has strongly backed the Swiss-drafted peace talks; Ukraine has not endorsed the plan and U.S. officials view its prospects for success skeptically. The talks are to be mediated by Walter Ischinger, a German diplomat.

Secretary of State John Kerry described the discussions as a "key step in the path to heal the tensions politically."

Kerry said the United States "very strongly supports this process," but noted that Russia "really does face a choice" over its actions in Ukraine.

Contributing: Luigi Serenelli in Berlin, Doug Stanglin in McLean, Va.; Associated Press

Follow @dstanglin on Twitter



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Ukraine tense as peace talks falter

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

SAT
22
SUN
23
MON
24
TUE
25
WED
26
THU
27
FRI
28

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX