Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Contact Group on Ukraine adopts memorandum

Tanya Korovenkova, Naviny.by

The Contact Group on Ukraine adopted a memorandum in the early hours of Saturday as a result of six-hour talks in Minsk, which provided for the establishment of a 30-kilometer (19-mile) wide buffer strip in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

As former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told reporters following the talks, the first point of the memorandum provided for an end to the use of common weapons by the belligerent parties.

According to Mr. Kuchma, the nine-point memorandum also provided that the belligerent parties forces should stay where they were as of September 19, that the parties should not use all types of weapons, and that all weapons of a caliber greater than 100 millimeters should be withdrawn to a distance of no less than 15 kilometers on each side, including from populated localities.

In addition, the memorandum imposed a ban on planting mines and on flights of combat and other aircraft except OSCE monitoring drones.

Mr. Kuchma stressed that the final point of the memorandum provided for the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces from the conflict zone. Mikhail Zurabov, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, added that foreign armed forces meant foreign mercenaries fighting for either side.

Contact Group on Ukraine adopts memorandum

Mikhail Zurabov

An OSCE monitoring group would be deployed in the conflict zone within 24 hours of the signing of the memorandum.

Mr. Kuchma noted that the OSCE would be monitoring the Ukrainian-Russian border along its entire length.

OSCE envoy Heidi Tagliavini noted that she could not say how soon this could be done. According to her, the parties agreed on the monitoring of the ceasefire in the conflict zone, whereas the monitoring of the border is a different thing.

Contact Group on Ukraine adopts memorandum

Heidi Tagliavini

Igor Plotnitsky, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Luhansk Peoples Republic, pointed out that the memorandum confirmed the ceasefire protocol signed in Minsk on September 5. In some instances, there were violations [of the ceasefire], he said. The memorandum will put an end to this. There will be a complete ceasefire. This will give all civilians the chance to feel safe.

Mr. Plotnitsky also said that the contact group would hold one more meeting in the future.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic, said that the issue of the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics were not raised at the talks by mutual consent. This issue was not discussed, he said. We adheres to the opinion that we held before. We each have our own understanding of the law on special status [which has been adopted by the Ukrainian parliament."

Mr. Zakharchenko said that the status of the territories would be discussed after the law would be enacted.

When asked by a BelaPAN correspondent whether the Republics would press for the political recognition of their independence, Mr. Zakharchenko said, The law on special status already means the recognition of our independence.

Our immediate task is to establish a system of governance in the Republics, including the creation of local government bodies and the election of a supreme council, he said. There will be no Ukrainian elections in our Republics on either October 26 or December 7, he added.

Armed clashes in eastern Ukraine have decreased by 70 percent since the September 5 ceasefire deal was signed, Ambassador Zurabov noted. After the protocol was signed, it was criticized for inefficiency because violations of the ceasefire were reported, he said. The agreements did not work as there was no contact line [frontline], without which was impossible to pull out troops and ensure compliance with the ceasefire.

The memorandum establishes such a contact line, Mr. Zurabov noted.

In addition, the parties continued their efforts to ensure the exchange of prisoners of war and hostages, he said, adding that there were hundreds of such people, and that more than 120 people had already been exchanged.

The exchange of POWs is one of the most important matters, noted Mr. Kuchma. This process is under way; neither party has objections, he said.

Russian troops and rebels have violated the ceasefire a total of 480 times since the Minsk ceasefire deal was signed on September 5, with 138 people wounded and more than 100 Ukrainian soldiers killed, Ukraine's permanent representative to the United Nations, Yuriy Serheyev, told the UN Security Council on Friday.