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East Ukraine separatists stay put

Separatists say they need more assurances before they comply with a deal ordering them to disarm.

A pro-Russia activist guards a barricade outside the city government building seized by pro-Russia activists in the southeast city of Mariupol on 17 April. Picture: AFP.

UKRAINE - Armed pro-Russian separatists were still holding public buildings in eastern Ukraine on Friday, saying they needed more assurances about their security before they comply with an international deal ordering them to disarm.

The agreement, brokered by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union in Geneva on Thursday offered the best hope to date of defusing a stand-off in Ukraine that has dragged East-West relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.

Enacting the agreement on the ground though will be difficult, because of the deep mistrust between the pro-Russian groups and the Western-backed government in Kiev, which this week flared into violent clashes that killed several people.

The fact any deal was reached at all came as a surprise, and it was not immediately clear what had happened behind the scenes to persuade the Kremlin, which had up to that point shown little sign of compromise, to join calls on the militias to disarm.

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 gunmen were holding a meeting early on Monday inside one of the buildings they seized on how to respond to the Geneva agreement.

On the street, there was little change. In front of the Slaviansk mayor's office, men armed with Kalashnikovs peered over sandbags which had been piled higher overnight.

Separatists remained in control of the city's main streets, searching cars at checkpoints around the city.

Putin overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy last month by declaring Russia had a right to intervene in neighboring countries and by annexing Crimea.

Moscow's takeover of the Black Sea region, 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 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 the 25 May presidential election.

The 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. We, the vanguard of the Ukrainian revolution, should not be compared to obvious bandits," said Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky.