* Four-way talks end with call for end to Ukraine violence
* On ground, pro-Russian gunmen holding their positions
* Kiev's Maidan says it won't budge either
* Obama says talks offer hope that diplomacy can work
* Deal did not mention Russia's annexation of Crimea
(Adds constitutional offer from Kiev, Russian foreign ministry
By Thomas Grove and Aleksandar Vasovic
SLAVIANSK/DONETSK, Ukraine, April 18 Armed
pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Friday they
were not bound by an international deal ordering them to disarm
and would not move out of public buildings they have seized
until the Kiev government stepped down.
The agreement, brokered by the United States, Russia, Ukraine
and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday, seemed to be the
best hope of defusing a stand-off in Ukraine that has dragged
East-West relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.
Ukraine's acting president and prime minister offered some of
their strongest pledges yet to strengthen constitutional rights
to use the Russian language to try and defuse the protests but
Kiev also said its efforts to root out the separatists would
The Geneva agreement requires all illegal armed groups to
disarm and end occupations of public buildings, streets and
squares, but with the separatists staying put in the east and
Ukrainian nationalist protesters showing no sign of leaving
their - unarmed - camps in the capital's Maidan Square, it was
not clear that either side would be willing to move first.
Enacting the agreement on the ground will be difficult,
because of the deep mistrust between the pro-Russian groups and
the Western-backed government in Kiev. This week has already
seen several people killed in violent clashes.
The fact a deal was reached in Geneva came as a surprise,
and it was not clear what had happened behind the scenes to
persuade the Kremlin, which had shown little sign of compromise,
to join calls on the militias to disarm. It rejects Ukrainian
and Western accusations of orchestrating the gunmen.
Russian President Vladimir Putin overturned decades of
post-Cold War diplomacy last month by declaring Russia had a
right to intervene in neighbouring countries and by annexing
Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
That move followed the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Moscow
president Viktor Yanukovich after months of street protests
prompted by his rejection of a trade deal with the EU.
In Slaviansk, a city that has become a flashpoint in the
crisis after men with Kalashnikovs took control last weekend,
leaders of the pro-Russian groups met inside one of the seized
buildings to decide how to respond to the Geneva agreement.
Anatoly, one of the armed separatists who have taken over
police headquarters, said: "We are not leaving the building,
regardless of what statements are made, because we know what is
the real situation in the country and we will not leave until
our commander tells us to."
Two Ukrainian military aircraft circled Slaviansk several
times on Friday. In front of the mayor's office, men armed with
automatic rifles peered over sandbags that had been piled higher
overnight. Separatists remained in control of the city's main
streets, searching cars at checkpoints around the city.
In a joint televised address, acting President Oleksander
Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk called for
national unity, urged people to refrain from violence and said
they would support constitutional change, decentralising more
power to local councils, including over their official language
- a key demand of Russian-speakers.
Kiev also said the government was preparing a law that would
give the separatists an amnesty if they backed down.
The self-declared leader of all the region's separatists
said he did not consider his men to be bound by the agreement.
Denis Pushilin, head of the self-declared Donetsk People's
Republic, told journalists in Donetsk, the regional capital,
that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "did not sign
anything for us; he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation".
First, he said, the prime minister and acting president who
took power in February should quit their offices, as they took
them over "illegally".
But Alexei, another separatist in Slaviansk, acknowledged
that the Geneva talks had changed the situation: "It turns out
Vova doesn't love us as much as we thought," he said, using a
diminutive term for Putin, who is viewed by many of the
separatist militias as their champion and protector.
In the capital, Kiev, people on the Maidan, the local name
given to Independence Square, which was the centre of protests
that eventually toppled Yanukovich, said the barricades would
not come down until after the May 25 presidential election.
"People will not leave the Maidan. The people gave their
word to stay until the presidential elections so that nobody
will be able to rig the result. Then after the election we'll go
of our own accord," said 56-year-old Viktor Palamaryuk from the
western town of Chernivtsi.
"Nobody will take down our tents and barricades," said
34-year-old Volodymyr Shevchenko from the southern Kherson
region. "If the authorities try to do that by force, thousands
and thousands of people will come on to the Maidan and stop
Right Sector, a far-right nationalist group whose violent
street tactics in support of the Maidan helped bring down
Yanukovich in February, saw the Geneva accord as being directed
only at pro-Russian separatists in the east.
"We don't have any illegal weapons, and so the call to
disarm will not apply to us," said Right Sector spokesman Artem
Skoropadsky. "We, the vanguard of the Ukrainian revolution,
should not be compared to outright gangsters."
President Barack Obama said the meeting in Geneva between
Russia, Ukraine and Western powers was promising but that the
United States and its allies were prepared to impose more
sanctions on Russia if the situation fails to improve.
"There is the possibility, the prospect, that diplomacy may
de-escalate the situation," Obama told reporters.
"The question now becomes, will in fact they use the
influence they've exerted in a disruptive way to restore some
order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election and move
forward with the decentralisation reforms that they've
proposed," he said at the White House.
Ukraine's government promises to devolve power to the
regions and protect people's rights, notably in the east, to use
the Russian language in public life. But it rejects calls for a
federal structure that it says could lead to permanent Russian
interference in the east and eventually break up the country.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva that if by
the end of the weekend there were no signs that pro-Russian
groups were pulling back, there would be costs for Moscow, a
reference to further EU and U.S. sanctions.
Russia said the threat of new sanctions against Moscow by
Washington was "completely unacceptable".
The Foreign Ministry accused U.S. officials of seeking to
whitewash what it said was the use of force by the Ukrainian
government against protesters in the country's mainly
Russian-speaking eastern provinces.
The Geneva deal did not mention Russia's annexation of
Crimea, though Western diplomats said they remained firm that
Russia acted illegally and denied they had dropped the issue.
The fact the agreement did not address Crimea could put
pressure on Ukraine's interim government from its own
supporters, who are adamant that everything should be done to
bring the peninsula back under Kiev's control.
The United States and EU have so far imposed visa bans and
asset freezes on a small number of Russians, a response that
Moscow has openly mocked. Western states say they are now
contemplating measures that could hurt Russia's economy more
Some EU nations are reluctant to press ahead with more
sanctions, fearing that could provoke Russia further or end up
hurting their own economies, which rely on Russian gas.
The Moscow-led South Stream undersea gas pipeline project to
bring gas to southeast Europe is still under way, and Russia has
been discussing its implementation with Europe, Russian Energy
Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday.
He also said cooperation between Russian companies and
international oil and gas majors was continuing despite Western
sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine.
Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden
said he had told Putin at a meeting on Friday that the company
was committed to expansion in Russia, and plans to expand
Russia's only liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant with Russian
Pro-Russian militants control buildings in about 10 towns in
eastern Ukraine after launching their operation on April 6.
In Luhansk, a militia member called Andrei said his group
had no plans to withdraw: "Everything on the ground is the same
as it was yesterday and the day before and the day before that.
We're not leaving."
Seeking to reassure its eastern allies, NATO announced it
was sending warships to the Baltic, while the United States
approved more non-lethal military support for Ukraine.
Speaking on Russian television before the Geneva agreement,
Putin accused the authorities in Kiev of plunging the country
into an "abyss".
Kiev fears he will use any violence as a pretext to launch
an invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian forces.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Tom Miles, Arshad
Mohammed and Catherine Koppel in Geneva, and Alexei Anishchuk in
Moscow; Writing by Christian Lowe and Richard Balmforth; Editing
by Anna Willard, Alastair Macdonald and Will Waterman)