Ukraine told the UN Security Council yesterday (28 April) that a fragile ceasefire must be strengthened before progress can be achieved in political talks on solving the two-year conflict in the country’s east.
Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said the Orthodox Easter holiday on Sunday (1 May) would provide an opportunity to shore up the truce after a surge of violations in recent weeks.
“If we can start with that, we can then proceed to withdrawal of forces and resolving of all the problems – demining, humanitarian problems – all the way down to a political resolution,” he said.
The 15-member council held its first meeting on Ukraine since December following a rare pause after a series of marathon talks last year that often led to clashes between Russia and the United States.
Ukraine requested the meeting to discuss the ceasefire violations in the eastern Donestsk region that OSCE monitors say have reached worrying levels over the past weeks.
Foreign ministers from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia are expected to meet in early May to try to push forward the peace effort outlined in the Minsk agreement.
More than 9,300 people have died in eastern Ukraine – known as Donbass – where pro-Russian rebels are fighting Kyiv’s forces since April 2014.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of providing military backing for the separatists, a claim Moscow rejects.
“Russia has organized and deployed in Donbass a 34,000-strong hybrid military force consisting of the regular Russian troops as well as of foreign and local militants,” Prystaiko said.
“Russian generals and military officers provide direct command-and-control of this illegal military entity impressively heavily armed,” he added.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin criticized Ukraine’s appeal to the council as “very disappointing.”
“There is a lot of rhetoric but no specific plan about how to implement the Minsk agreement,” he said.
Asked by reporters about prospects for firming up the ceasefire over the weekend, Churkin said: “I hope it will happen. Easter is one thing that continues to unite us, Russia and Ukraine.”
Read about the conflict in eastern Ukraine in the Links Dossier below: