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Minsk group to consider freeing all Donbas hostages before New Year - Ukraine's rep

Minsk group to consider freeing all Donbas hostages before New Year -  Ukraine's repUkraine has initiated that the release of Donbas hostages should be considered as a top priority at a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) in Minsk on December 7, Ukraine's representative in the TCG's humanitarian subgroup Iryna Gerashchenko said, citing Ukraine's envoy to the TCG Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma announced this initiative at a meeting with Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin and Gerashchenko when they were discussing the outcome of a Normandy Four ministerial meeting and preparations for December 7 meetings of the TCG and all of its four subgroups, Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, November 30.

"We think freeing hostages before New Year holidays should be a key task for the Minsk groups. Kuchma reiterated that the release of hostages had been included in the TCG's agenda on December 7 as a priority issue on the Ukrainian side's initiative. The process of the release must be unblocked. The foreign ministers of Germany and France stated this very clearly yesterday [November 29 at the Normandy meeting]," she said.

According to her, the Ukrainian side will also raise the issue of demilitarisation of the city of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, at the forthcoming meeting in Minsk. "This was an important subject at the ministerial meeting too," Gerashchenko said.

In her words, there is no explanation why the de-facto authorities in the occupied areas in Luhansk region are blocking the Zolote checkpoint's work. "Militants promised at the latest meeting that it would re-open on December 10. Yesterday their Moscow-based supervisors failed to provide any reasonable explanation why the Zolote checkpoint is being blocked," Gerashchenko wrote.

She also added that the blocking of the Zolote checkpoint along with other humanitarian issues, such as the denial of ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] access to prisons in the occupied areas in Donbas and Russia were on the radar screen of the German and French ministers.
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