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Merkel says situation in east Ukraine unstable, namely due to Debaltsevo crisis

Achieving peace in east Ukraine will be an extremely difficult task as the situation in the war-torn region remains unstable, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin on Monday.

"The situation is unstable. And this is not unexpected, taking into consideration the situation in Debaltseve," Merkel said.

"It has always been clear that we need to do a lot more. I have always stressed that the attempts that we make do not guarantee the success. This will be an extremely difficult path," she stressed.

Russia's Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov told the Izvestiya daily on Monday the main problem in implementing the Minsk agreements is the lack of regulation of the situation around Debaltseve.

At talks in Minsk, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko did not admit the fact that the Ukrainian forces were surrounded in Debaltseve. The self-defense forces say that there is encirclement and Ukrainian forces can exit only if they leave their weapons and military equipment.

From 6,000 to 8,000 Ukrainian servicemen are surrounded in Debaltseve, according to different estimates.

Despite the situation in Deblaltsevo, Zurabov hopes that the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) will be able to implement the Minsk agreements, the Izvestiya daily said. "There is a chance for that, at least that's what I think," Zurabov was quoted as saying.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) urged Kiev on Sunday to observe the truce, stressing that the situation in the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve was still tense.

"The ceasefire regime there did not come into force in due time. Ukrainian troops blocked in Debaltsevo keep on trying to break the encirclement," DPR Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said.

The ceasefire regime between the conflicting parties in Donbas came into force at midnight on Sunday.

Chief monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine of the OSCE Ertugrul Apakan earlier confirmed the ceasefire has been generally observed, except for Debaltseve.

He said the OSCE monitors had failed to reach Debaltseve to observe the situation. In this connection, he called on both parties to the conflict to provide access to all territories within the conflict zone for representatives of the OSCE mission.

In a phone conversation on Sunday with the presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine, Merkel discussed the difficult situation in Debaltseve and the role of the OSCE mission in controlling the ceasefire regime observance.

The 16-hour negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended in Minsk on February 12.

Minsk also held a meeting of the Contact Group on resolving the conflict in east Ukraine. A set of measures on implementing the Minsk agreements was adopted that envisaged the ceasefire starting from February 15, the heavy weaponry withdrawal and also measures aimed at a long-term political settlement of the crisis.

[Source: Itar Tass, Berlin, 16Feb15]

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