Ukraine Pushes for Progress in East as Latest Cease-Fire Starts
(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine pushed for progress to end the conflict with Russian-backed separatists over its easternmost regions as the latest cease-fire took effect after dozens of unsuccessful attempts.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy won last year’s elections on a promise to end the war that has killed more than 13,000 people since it began with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for rebels who have seized swathes of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
A peace accord signed by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Belarus’s capital in 2015 was never implemented, prompting the U.S and the European Union to impose economic sanctions against Moscow. With shelling and skirmishes continuing between the two sides, Ukraine is no closer to regain control over its border with Russia.
Zelenskiy had a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday to discuss additional measures “to support cease-fire”, weapon and personnel withdrawal, release of Ukrainians detained in Crimea, Russia and rebel-held territories.
“Ukraine’s army has been protecting the country from Russian military aggression for the seventh year,” Volodymyr Kravchenko, the commander of forces, said in a televised briefing on Monday. “Along with that, the forces must ensure a full and comprehensive cease-fire under orders from the country’ top political leadership. Ensuring the implementation of political agreements, the army gives opportunity to politicians to achieve impetus in a peace process.”
Ukrainian president, who could use a win after shakeups in his government and the central bank have rumbled confidence among investors and voters, is now calling for a document to be signed by the backers of the peace accord, known as the Normandy Group, to strengthen the cease-fire’s status.
“I believe that all parties - Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia - will sign it, and from the 27th, I believe the time may come when there will be a permanent cease-fire,” Zelenskiy said last week. “Ukraine is fulfilling its part of the Minsk agreements, and the whole world sees it. The other party must also demonstrate willingness to comply with them.”
Zelenskiy met with Putin in Paris eight months ago to revive talks. They were supposed to continue discussing holding elections in the disputed territories in April in Berlin, but those efforts have been delayed indefinitely as the agreed protocols were not implemented amid the coronavirus crisis.
Rebels violated the cease-fire almost immediately after it started at midnight Kyiv time while Ukrainian army sticks to the cease-fire as that shelling did not threat personnels’ lives, Kravchenko said.
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