The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it remains “deeply concerned” over continuing cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine.
Addressing the U.N. Security Council as the current chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said implementing the Minsk agreement is the only way to a political solution in Ukraine.
He said foreign ministers from France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine would meet in Paris on March 3 to try to achieve progress on the security situation and a new electoral law for eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Russian-Backed separatists and government forces has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014.
After the 2014 ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and Russian-speaking separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions launched protests that escalated into a war that has killed more than 9,000 people.
The February 2015 Minsk agreement has helped reduce fighting in eastern Ukraine, but skirmishes have continued and there has been little progress in bringing about a political settlement.
The warring parties have blamed each other for numerous violations, and Russia and Ukraine went after each other in the Security Council after Steinmeier’s briefing.
Steinmeier called on both countries “to live up to their responsibilities.”
Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko accused Russia of carrying out a “‘hybrid war’ against Ukraine, marked with invention of artificial grounds for invasions, sending regular troops without insignia and the use of pervasive, virulent propaganda.” He warned that the situation in Donbas could escalate.
Yelchenko said Ukraine’s steps toward implementing the Minsk agreements haven’t been reciprocated by Russia. But he said Kiev is ready to fully implement the agreements “and move forward on all aspects” including local elections in certain areas of Donbas.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Ukraine of violating Minsk by using heavy weaponry instead of withdrawing its forces and of failing to adopt laws on the special status of Donbas, amnesty, and elections as the agreement requires.
“Kiev should want to see the implementation of the package of measures, just as Russia does,” Churkin said. “It’s time to halt the crisis.”
What is needed to move forward, Yelchenko said, is “a comprehensive and sustainable cease-fire, verified withdrawal of heavy weapons, unfettered OSCE monitoring throughout the conflict area, including at the border with Russia.”(with AP, Reuters)