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Minsk meeting of Contact Group on Ukraine to feature subgroups

Another meeting of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in Ukraine will take place in the capital city of Belarus on Wednesday. The meeting will feature subgroups, thus demonstrating realistic implementation of the earlier Minsk agreements.

On April 30, leaders of the so-called Normandy Four - Russia's Vladimir Putin, Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Francois Hollande and Ukraine's Pyotr Poroshenko - agreed the subgroups should have meetings.

The Kremlin's press service said the subgroups would favour a necessary dialogue between Kiev's authorities and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass.

"This stage will begin a new political phase of implementing the Minsk agreements' provisions," the Elysee Palace said.

Berlin is also expecting more active political component in the settlement. "The political process, outlined at the negotiations in Minsk, should be more active," press service of Germany's government said. "Thus, the Contact Group should organise working groups" featuring authorities of the self-proclaimed republics.

Donetsk and Lugansk Republics: Hope for Beginning Dialogue

Organisation of working groups on separate aspects of the peace process is suggested by the Complex of Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements, which was signed on February 12.

The document, which is a "roadmap" for the peace process, binds the parties not only to guarantee ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. It orders liberation and exchange of hostages on the basis all-for-all (on the fifth day following the withdrawal of heavy weapons), amnesty for all participants in the conflict in Ukraine's east, and delivery of humanitarian assistance. In compliance with the Complex of Measures, Kiev is to restore economic ties with Donbass for its social and economic development, as well as to complete by the yearend an overwhelming political settlement, which includes a constitutional reform and a new constitution, separate legislation on special status for certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and organisation of local elections there.

The document reads the working subgroups will be responsible for the practical implementation of all political and economic aspects of the Minsk agreements.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities, like Moscow had to stress with concern several times, have been delaying realistic beginning of a political settlement process. "The biggest breakthrough in formation of the subgroups," representative of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) Vladislav Deinego said, was made only at the Contact Group's video conference on April 29.

The parties agreed then the subgroups would be coordinated by the OSCE representatives. "We agree the OSCE representatives should be temporary coordinators of the working groups of the Minsk Contact Group, for the first month of the groups' work. In a month's time it would be clear, whether all the parties are satisfied with this order or whether there could be any new suggestions," representatives of the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics said in a joint statement.

On May 5, Heidi Tagliavini of OSCE, Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma and Russia's Azamat Kalmukhametov discussed preparations for a meeting of the Contact Group. Kuchma's press secretary, Daria Olifer, said the main objective of May 6 would be "to launch the work of subgroups on security, political, economic and humanitarian aspects of the Minsk agreement."

The negotiations with participation of the Donetsk and Lugansk representatives are due to begin at 2 p.m.

"We have received an invitation to the meeting in Minsk; Donetsk will be represented by eight people - two per every subgroup," head of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) Alexander Zakharchenko said. "The objective of the meeting in Minsk," he continued, "is to have the parties meet each other and to discuss work schedules."

The self-proclaimed republics hope the launch of the subgroups will begin a realistic dialogue between the parties. "We are looking for a format, where we could find common ground, have a dialogue to satisfy both us and the Ukrainian side. A good beginning of the process could be, for example, Ukraine's presentation of the minefields maps and its lifting the blockade," Andrei Purgin of DPR said.

Territorial Integrity is Top Priority

While the Normandy Four managed to agree on a first meeting of the subgroups, Kiev voiced another alarming statement, which became a signal for aggravation of the situation in the conflict area.

In the afternoon on April 30, in an interview with the STB television channel, Ukraine's President Pyotr Poroshenko said "the war will be over as Ukraine returns Donbass and Crimea." "It will take as long as it requires. Territorial integrity of this country should be the top priority. We shall be using all ways. We shall be resolute in this issue," he said.

DPR said this statement was a signal for Ukraine's military to activate shelling from heavy weapons, which should have been well withdrawn from the engagement line, thus pushing the situation on the blink of new full-scale hostilities. On the day, following the president's statement, the military delivered over 140 fire attacks on the airport in Donetsk. Later on, they fired from tanks and mortars aiming at residential areas in Donetsk and using shells of 152 and 155mm calibres. In the attacks, two civilians in Donetsk were killed and six militia were wounded. Destroyed were about 20 tower blocks and a school, damaged was the gas line, and hot water supplies were terminated.

DPR's foreign ministry called on guarantors of the Minsk agreements - "Russia, Germany and France" - to "exert influence over Kiev."

"Because of the provocations by Ukraine's military, the armed forces of the DPR are on the edge of resuming full-scale hostilities," the republic's representative at the Contact Group Denis Pushilin said then. "They have been using against us shells of 120, 122 and bigger calibres, thus violating the Minsk agreements." "We should not be expecting new shelling; they should be stopped. Thus should be launched work of the subgroups of the Contact Group, as further protraction is out of question if we do not want escalation of the conflict in Donbass," Pushilin said.

New Old Agenda

The aggravated situation in Donbass once again puts on the agenda the issue, which has seemed to be settled - the ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have talked by telephone with the chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Ivica Dacic, following reports of Ukraine's government forces using large-calibre artillery to shell the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page on Sunday.

Lavrov "has strongly urged him [Dacic] to use his authority so that the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine demands that Kiev should immediately stop the blatant violation of the Minsk agreements", the statement said, adding that Dacic had promised to take all necessary measures.

According to the self-proclaimed republic's Defence Ministry, forces loyal to Kiev on Saturday evening opened fire with heavy weapons on positions of the self-defence forces around the villages of Spartak, Peski and Yasinovataya, Donetsk airport and Donetsk's northern districts.

The reports said that units of the Ukrainian military stationed near the village of Avdeyevka were using the NATO-standard 155mm calibre weapons, in violation of the Minsk agreements.

A direct dialogue only could be a bridge to keeping Ukraine's territorial integrity, head of the Russian Federation Council's international affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev said.

Donbass' resistance was inevitable, he said, "after the Maidan as the radicals forgot about people for the sake of obtaining the power and in the country, where top priorities have been not people, but territories." "Territorial integrity is based only on a national accord to live together," he said. Ukraine could have studied "the tragic, but eventually successful" experience of Russia in overcoming separatism in the Caucasus, the diplomat said calling on Kiev's authorities to "change the political emotions for common sense" and to focus on interests of people.

[Source: Itar Tass, Minsk, 06May15]

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Ukraine Unrest
small logoThis document has been published on 06May15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.