OSCE mediator in Ukraine meets Slaviansk militants

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:05pm EDT

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SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - The senior European mediator in eastern Ukraine held his first talks on Monday with the leader of pro-Russian separatists in the city of Slaviansk, a flashpoint of the crisis.

Mark Etherington told reporters he met the self-declared, separatist mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, for two hours. He had asked whether Ponomaryov and his group would comply with last week's Geneva accord under which Russia and Ukraine agreed that militants should disarm and vacate occupied public buildings.

Ponomaryov later told a news conference: "We did not negotiate, we talked. We told them our position, what happened here, and they told us about their plans."

Etherington has not commented on the response he received.

The diplomat said he also asked Ponomaryov about people who had been detained in Slaviansk, including the previous mayor, about reports of maltreatment of the Roma minority and about a gunfight on Sunday in which at least three men were killed.

Ponomaryov said OSCE officials had met and spoken with Nelya Shtepa, who had been mayor before his group took over. "She is under our protection," he said.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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