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Lugansk republic notifies OSCE about completed withdrawal of weapons - militia

People's militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) has notified the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and the Joint Coordination Center for Ceasefire Monitoring about complete withdrawal of weapons and equipment of calibre under 100mm, the militia's spokesman Igor Yaschenko said on Saturday.

"The Lugansk People's Republic has completed fully withdrawal of weapons and military equipment from the 15-kilometre security zone ahead of the schedule, thus having fulfilled addendum number one to the Supplement to the Minsk agreements and has informed the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and the Joint Coordination Centre for Ceasefire Monitoring," LuganskInformCentre quoted him.

"In the LPR's zone of responsibility remains the ceasefire regime. However, the Ukrainian media continue accusing us of breaching the Minsk agreements, thus pulling attention of Ukrainians from domestic political and social problems," he said.

"Units of the People's militia have finalised preparations for the autumn-winter period; our military, unlike the military of Ukraine, receive timely winter clothing and supplies," he said. "We are ready to service under conditions of coming cold weather."

Since September 1, the sides to the Ukrainian conflict agreed a complete cessation of fire along the contact line in line with the Minsk peace deal. The ceasefire became the main condition for a new withdrawal of weapons in compliance with the document initialled by the Contact Group on September 29 and later signed by the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and Kiev as well.

On September 29, the Trilateral Contact Group initialled a document envisaging withdrawal of weapons under 100mm calibre to a distance of 15 kilometres for the line of engagement. In line with the agreement, the Ukrainian military are due to pull the weapons back from the current contact line while the militias of the self-proclaimed republics from the line determined on September 19, 2014, when first agreements on ceasefire were achieved and the Contact Group signed a memorandum on cessation of fire.

Minsk accords

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising senior representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the European security watchdog OSCE on February 12, 2015, signed a 13-point Package of Measures to fulfil the September 2014 Minsk agreements. The package was agreed with the leaders of the Normandy Four, namely Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.

The Package of Measures, known as Minsk-2, envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and people's militias in the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Lugansk starting from February 15 and subsequent withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of engagement. The deal also laid out a roadmap for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give more autonomy to the war-torn eastern regions.

On September 29, a supplement to the Package of Measures on Implementing the Minsk Agreements from 12 February 2015 was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group on settlement the Ukrainian crisis, which was organised in Minsk (Belarus). The supplement envisages withdrawal of tanks, artillery weapons of less than 100mm calibre, and mortars of equal to or less than 120mm calibre to a distance of 15 kilometres from the contact line in Donbass. On September 30, the document was signed by DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko and LPR head Igor Plotnitsky. In accordance with the reached agreement, tanks are withdrawn first, followed by artillery weapons of less than 100mm calibre and mortars. The first stage should start two days after the complete ceasefire and finish in 15 days. The second stage will take 24 days to complete. The withdrawal will start in the "North" sector on the LPR territory and will continue in the "South" sector in DPR. The whole process of withdrawal is expected to take a total of 41 days.

Recent Normandy format talks

On Friday, October 2, leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine held talks in Paris in the so-called Normandy format. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leaders discussed implementation of the Minsk Agreements, including withdrawal of armaments, elections, amnesty, gas issues and other crises, including air services. The Kremlin spokesman confirmed that the Minsk peace deal has no alternative.

On Friday, November 6, the Normandy Four foreign ministers agreed that humanitarian situation in Donbass is not improving, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his counterparts from Germany, France and Ukraine in the Normandy Four format.

"We paid much attention to the problem of ongoing blockade, few crossing points, reduced possibilities for social services, payment of pension and allowances, which aggravate the humanitarian situation. It is not improving," he said. "We drew attention to the fact that all this was described in detail in the recent report of the European human rights commissioner which tells about these problems. First of all, problems created by Ukrainian authorities."

The Russian foreign minister called on the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics to cooperate with international humanitarian organizations.

Foreign ministers of the Normandy Four states are planning to sign an agreement on demining the territory of the embattled Donbass region by the end of the month, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday following the Berlin talks.

"We decided to work out an agreement with technical schemes of the demining process," Steinmeier said. "The document should be signed before the month end."

The minister noted the importance of the demining process. "There exist lots of mines which is very dangerous," he said. "Mines claim lives of civilians. Moreover the fact is a hinder for organising negotiations."

Steinmeier expressed hope that the demining works will start before winter period, otherwise the snow will interrupt the process.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 07Nov15]

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