By Erik Wasson - 04/19/14 09:58 AM EDT
Easter truce hours old before shooting
A fragile Easter truce in Ukraine was shattered early Sunday by a deadly attack on a checkpoint manned by separatists.
The shooting occurred near Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine, and at least two people were killed, Reuters reported. Separatists blamed Ukraine's far right for the attack, but an anti-Russian group denied carrying it out.
Ukraine announced Saturday that military operations aimed at retaking full control of eastern provinces from pro-Russian separatists would be suspended during the Easter holiday weekend.
Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told he BBC that the truce would be in effect this weekend, but actions would start again next week if militants did not stop occupying government offices.
Earlier this week, a Ukrainian military effort to retake government offices ended, when militants seized armored vehicles and weapons from underequipped government forces.
A deal inked in Geneva this week between Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the United States calls for all sides to abandon violence, but pro-Russian militants say they will not honor the agreement.
The Obama administration said Friday that, if Russia does not pressure militants to stand down, the U.S. is ready to impose fresh sanctions on Russian leaders. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman countered the threats, saying the U.S. should not treat Russia like a “guilty schoolboy,” Reuters reported.
This year, Orthodox Easter falls on April 20, the same as for Catholics and Protestant denominations. The holiday appears to allow all sides to cool off and to try to make the accord work.
"Ukraine is approaching a great and light Christian holiday: Easter. It brings hope for renaissance and a renewed peaceful living,” Ukrainian interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told his nation Friday evening.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk promised to uphold the Geneva accord by giving more autonomy to Russian-speaking easterners in his country and granting amnesty to militants.
“We are granting a special status to the Russian language and we will protect this language. We are granting a special status to any other language spoken in any territorial community,” he said Friday.