In Ukraine, Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016

The leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine are to discuss the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine tomorrow in Berlin. The ‘Normandy Four’ group of countries initially brokered a ceasefire for Ukraine in February 2015, but it was never fully implemented.

'Normandy Four' talks in Paris on Oct 2, 2015 with leaders of Russia, Germany, France, Ukriane (photo from website of Office of President of Russia)

‘Normandy Four’ talks in Paris on Oct 2, 2015 with leaders of Russia, Germany, France, Ukriane (photo from website of Office of President of Russia)

The meeting on Wednesday will be the first time Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the German capital since the political crisis in Ukraine began in 2014. He will discuss the situation in the struggling country with host Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko.

“It’s been a month since a meeting in Paris. The work of aides has shown that it is time to compare notes, and that is what will happen,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the meeting.

“So far it would be premature to talk about any concrete agreements,” he added, mirroring the pessimism of President Poroshenko, who has said he had little hope for a breakthrough in Berlin.

“One mustn’t expect any wonders from tomorrow’s meeting but it is worth every endeavor on this issue to take efforts forward,” Chancellor Merkel also told a news conference on Tuesday.

After an armed coup in Kyiv in 2014, several of its regions rejected the new ultra-nationalist and anti-Russia government. Crimea voted in a referendum in March of that year to rejoin Russia, while the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (Donbass) opted for broader autonomy. Kyiv responded by launching a military crackdown against the Donbass rebels.

Ukraine and its foreign sponsors accused Russia of stirring the conflict in the east by sending troops and weapons there, an allegation that Moscow denied.

The bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, which according to United Nations estimates has claimed around 9,000 lives in more than two years, was somewhat reduced by the Minsk-2 agreement of Feb 12, 2015. That ceasefire deal between KYiv and the Donbass rebels was brokered in the Belarus capital by Russia, Germany and France. The deal, however, failed to resolve the conflict and remains a controversial issue in Ukraine.

The terms of the ceasefire require Ukraine to take a number of political steps, including pardoning the rebels, changing the constitution to give more autonomy to the two rebellious regions, and accepting the results of elections which would likely make a number of rebel leaders members of the Ukrainian parliament. The rebels agreed to hand over to the Ukrainian military control of their border with Russia on the day following the election.

But senior officials in Ukraine insist that they would not deliver on their part of the bargain until Kyiv is in full control of the border, which runs contrary to the terms. The government is pressured by Ukrainian nationalists, who reject the Minsk deal and threaten to riot, should the government try to implement it.

“Indeed, the security situation along the demarcation line leaves a lot to be desired, provocations are ongoing,” Peskov said on Tuesday. “Of course, all this does not promote the process of achieving the implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

The conflict has occasionally resulted in almost farcical episodes. Last week, President Hollande sparked outrage in Ukraine by citing at a PACE session the terms of the Minsk deal as they are, rather than as Kyiv would like them to be. Among those rebuking the French leader was Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who said Hollande was in no position “to dictate to us what to do”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking in Paris on Tuesday, stressed again there was no alternative to continuing to work on the Minsk agreement. “I told the Ukrainians there was no plan B to the Minsk accords. Some think there is a plan B, which is confronting Russia, which we don’t want.”

The meeting in Berlin comes amid a period of high tension between Russia and France, which clashed over Syria at a UN Security Council session. The Syrian conflict, however, will not be on the agenda on Wednesday, the Kremlin said.

Text of Minsk-2 agreement of Feb 12, 2015

A Zakharchenko: Poroshenko’s statement on Minsk-2 sounds like turning back on Minsk peace agreements and renewal of combat

DAN News, Oct 16, 2016

DONETSK – Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s recent statement on the Minsk-2 peace accord can be regarded as a turning down of a peace deal, said the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, at an emergency meeting held this night in Donetsk.

“We had drills today associated with two things in mkind. The first is the escalation of conflict on the line of contact, the second one is Petro Poroshenko’s recent speech that cancels the Minsk Agreements and all but unleashes a new round of fighting,” Zakharchenko said, addressing the participants of the mobilization call of ministries leaders, agencies, local administrations.

Zakharchenko added that the results of a surprise check of the readiness of Donetsk Republic’s senior authorities will be announced later.

“We take into account all mishaps and faults, but I would like to thank you, we have met the regulatory standards by 98-99 per cent.”

On October 15, the Ukrainian president expressed another re-interpretation of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the peace agreements reached in Minsk, Belarus in September 2014 and February 2015. Speaking in front of servicemen in Chuguev in the Kharkov region, Poroshenko announced that “Ukraine would not go ahead in the Minsk-2 political process” until the “security package is implemented, including the transfer of control to the government of Ukraine over the border between the Republics and Russia.

Lately, an escalation of military hositilities by Ukraine is observed in the south of the Donetsk Peoples Republic. Ukrainian forces have been heavily shelling villages along the line of contact.

Donetsk representative to Minsk-2 peace process hopes political decisions emerge from Normandy Four meeting

DAN News, Oct 18, 2016

DONETSK –  A peaceful settlement of the Donbass crisis requires political decisions and the Donetsk People’s Republic looks to the Normandy Four meeting in Berlin on October, 19th to give an impulse to it, Denis Pushilin has told reporters in Donetsk. He is the DPR representative to the flagging Minsk-2 peace process.

“All sides to Minsk-2 agreed that political decisions are necessary, but there are none. We hope they emerge after the Normandy Four meeting and Contact Group talks on October, 26th,” said Pushilin.

Overall, he said there were no results of today’s video conference of the Contact Group participants, “though important issues were brought up, namely escalation in the areas in areas in the south of the DPR where Ukrainian armed forces have attempted armed assaults.”

The Normandy Four format brings together the heads of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France and seeks ways to resolve the situation in the East of Ukraine. Its first meeting was in Normandy, France on June 6, 2014 during celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Allied army landings in Normandy 1944. The second meeting was held on 16-17 October in Milan (Italy).

The third meeting was held on 11-12 February, 2015 in Minsk, Belarus. There, the Minsk-2 agreement was reached.

Situation report by the Donetsk defense ministry on Oct 18, 2016

The situation in the Donetsk People’s Republic remains tense. Over the past day, the Ukrainian military violated the ceasefire 253 times, including 218 cases of using heavy artillery and mortars…

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30, 17 October 2016

Summary: The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) recorded more explosions in Donetsk region compared with the day before, the vast majority of which occurred in areas north-east of Mariupol. In Luhansk region, fewer explosions were recorded compared with the day before.

The Mission continued to monitor the disengagement process in Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; the SMM was restricted in its freedom of movement in all three areas. The SMM observed the presence of weapons in violation of withdrawal lines. It monitored four border areas not under government control. The Mission monitored long queues of pedestrians at entry-exit checkpoints at Stanytsia Luhanska. It monitored the situation of internally displaced persons in Odessa.

Full report: (go to above weblink)


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