Any attempts to undermine the Minsk agreements on Ukraine's conflict settlement should be prevented, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday after talks with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to Russian news agency TASS.
"France and Germany, when we met in Paris not long ago in the 'Normandy Four" format at the level of foreign ministers, called for indicating a tentative date for holing those local elections in Donbas that are viewed by many as a key at this point element of the fulfilment of Minsk 2," he said.
"We were ready to support this proposal. Germany proposed June-July for holding such elections, but the proposal was not supported by the Ukrainian side. And just recently I've read a statement by the head of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine that says that it will be possible to begin the discussion on holding such elections no earlier than in two years. It's an interesting signal."
Lavrov said that statements by the representatives of Ukraine's political sub-group in the Contact Group, Roman Bezsmertny and Volodymyr Horbulin, are an even more interesting signal. "They declare without scruple that Donbas will not get any special status," the minister said - "that Donbas should receive the same status as all other Ukrainian regions that will be (if at all) realized by the decentralization idea. And Mr. Horbulin wrote a program article, saying that Minsk 2 is last year's snow, and now it is necessary to fulfil the main task Kyiv faced during the signing of the Minsk 2 accords, namely to gain time and save its strength. And use the military force after all to solve the problems of Donbas"."I fully agree that the Minsk 2 accords cannot be revised and attempts at their undermining should be prevented," the Russian minister said. "We actively support the efforts exerted by Germany together with France for preserving the "Normandy format.' We are also in favor of this."
According to the minister, "The 'Normandy format' should certainly fulfil its function specified in the declaration of its leaders. And the declaration, signed on February 12, says that the 'Normandy format' ensures monitoring of the fulfilment of the Minsk agreements that were signed by both the Ukrainian side and representatives of Donbas," Lavrov said. "So we should strengthen and support in every way this monitoring role so that the Contact Group (on the Ukrainian crisis resolution) with all its subgroups could work rhythmically." It's the venue for the direct dialogue between Kyiv and Donbas on which the settlement of all problems and the fulfilment of the accords signed by the sides depend."
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The Package of Measures to fulfil the September 2014 Minsk agreements, known as Minsk 2, that was signed in Minsk on February 12, 2015, envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and separatists in the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk starting from February 15, 2015, and subsequent withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of engagement. The deal also laid out a roadmap for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give more autonomy to the war-torn eastern regions.
On January 13, 2016, the Trilateral Contact Group meeting in the Belarusian capital city Minsk agreed on yet another, the seventh, ceasefire in Donbas from January 14. The sides however continue to accuse each other of ceasefire violation.