In eastern Ukraine, protesters are unsure of how far they can go — but they're not giving up

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Vice President Joe Biden says it's time for Russia to stop talking and start acting to defuse the crisis in Ukraine. Biden made the statement in Kiev, where he's visiting to demonstrate American support for the interim Ukrainian government. The US wants Russia to do more to implement the so-called Geneva accord, which calls for pro-Russian militants to leave government buildings they're occupying in eastern Ukraine. That is not happening, as I heard today from the BBC's Natalia Antelava who's in the eastern city of Donetsk. Natalia Antelava: At the moment, we have at least 11 cities where main administrative buildings have been occupied and remain occupied by protesters, pro-Russian demonstrators and militants. Werman: So, 11 cities where municipal buildings are being occupied by pro-Russia forces. That's more than a few days ago, isn't it? Antelava: More than a few days ago and there's absolutely no sign of anybody leaving. In fact, more buildings are being occupied. Not today, but yesterday we had a few more buildings that were taken over. One of the clauses of the Geneva agreement is that the protesters must leave all the occupied buildings but the ones that we're speaking to are saying that they have absolutely no plans to leave until the government in Kiev leaves because as far as they're concerned, they say the government in Kiev is also occupying the government buildings there illegally. So it's a bit of a deadlock. Werman: What does that refusal to back down suggest to you? Antelava: The refusal to back down certainly suggests that everyone we're talking to is saying they're willing to go to the end. There are people who are saying they want to go the way that Crimea went and be annexed and join Russia. It's not all black and white, though. I think one thing that's quite interesting is that some of the pro-Russian activists that I've been talking to are feeling anxious are questioning how much support will they actually get from Moscow? It's interesting because you get the same sense from the pro-Kiev side as well, with supporters of the united Ukraine saying that they're not getting as much support from the West as they would like to have. Werman: I'm curious too, what people in the east make of people in Kiev, especially those still camped out in the Maidan. They're the ones that support the interim government, the government the Ukrainians in the east say is illegal. Antelava: That's one of the most extraordinary things about being here and talking to these people, the perception of the other side that they have. A lot of people that I talk to actually genuinely believe that Kiev is full of neo-Nazi fascist forces who are waiting to break into eastern Ukraine and take over. That's the sense you get. At pro-Russian rallies, you speak to people who hate the United States and Europe and it's genuine hatred. Werman: How real then is the threat of war in the area? Antelava: That's a question for President Putin, if you ask me. He's the one who will ultimately decide because from everything that we've seen, the Ukrainian army is not going to do very much on the ground. They can't, they don't have much of a control over anything here. We saw some of the Ukrainian troops that are stationed along the border and I kept pressing the commander on camera, off camera, I kept asking him "So, what are you going to do?" Basically, the sense you get from them is that they will do what they have done already. They will turn around and leave, they're not going to fight. The Ukrainian military is in a terrible state. This will be a war that they will lose if they fight it. So it is very much up to Russia and up to President Putin as to what happens next here. From what I'm seeing, it's very unlikely that local pro-Russian militants here will pick a serious fight unless they feel real backing from Moscow. Werman: Reporter Natalia Antelava in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, thank you very much. Antelava: Thank you.