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Normandy Four discusses implementation of leaders’ agreements — Lavrov

February 18, 19:25 updated at: February 18, 23:41 UTC+3

Foreign ministers of the Normandy Four group have condemned the railway blockade of Donbass, Russian Foreign Minister said

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MUNICH, February 18. /TASS/. The foreign ministers of Normandy Four group (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) have discussed implementation of the agreements made by four countries’ leaders at the Berlin summit last November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

"The Normandy Four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) has considered implementation of the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine alongside Germany’s chancellor in November in Berlin," Lavrov said. "There they issued corresponding instructions that security zones should be created, and their number should grow gradually and persistently along the contact line, that heavy weapons should be unconditionally pulled back, the OSCE mission’s constant round-the-clock monitoring should be organized both in the security zones along the contact line and in the places where heavy weapons are stored."

The foreign ministers "emphasized that humanitarian issues need urgent solutions, first of all ‘all-for-all’ exchanges," he said

"It was said that the road map should be drawn up, as it will schedule all the steps for implementation of the Minsk-2 (Minsk peace agreements) political part," Lavrov said.

"We noted that unfortunately, no tangible results have been achieved in this context, which are the agreements approved in Berlin," he went on to say. "A positive sign, as everybody said, is that the Contact Group come to another agreement that on February 20 a ceasefire will come into effect and heavy weapons will be pulled to the areas where they are to be (stored)."

Foreign ministers of the Normandy Four group have condemned the railway blockade of Donbass, Lavrov said.

"One separate statement, which the German and French ministers made public, was released on our proposal," he said. "We drew their attention to inadmissibility of the Donbass blockade currently staged by radical activists. Rail and road traffic is blocked and threats are coming to cut off any ties with that region of Ukraine."

"We have proposed that this approach be condemned and demanded the blockade be immediately lifted," Lavrov said. "Our partners in the Normandy format supported this proposal and this statement was included in final commentary of German and French ministers.".

Moscow expects that Kiev and Donbass will agree on exchanges of prisoners of war, Lavrov said.

"We have also supported slight progress in the Contact Group’s humanitarian subgroup related to finalizing of lists of prisoners and captives so as to start exchanges on the ‘all for all’ principle," Lavrov said. "The work is underway. We expect that on the ground those in charge - Ukrainian representatives and representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk - will come to agreements."

"A positive sign, as everybody said, is that the Contact Group come to another agreement that on February 20 a ceasefire will come into effect and heavy weapons will be pulled to the areas where they are to be (stored)," the Russian foreign minister said.

"We have actively supported this decision but expressed our conviction that this time no disruption can be allowed," he added. "We will see how the sides to the conflict will react."

The prisoner swaps on the all-for-all basis are one of the key points of the Minsk-2 package, which the Contact Group signed on February 12, 2015 with the aim of carrying out the Minsk agreements. The package of measures also provides for granting amnesty to all participants in the Donbass conflict and obliges Kiev to adopt and enforce a law banning any prosecution and punishment of persons involved in the events that took place in some parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The Normandy Four group has not raised the issue of Russia’s recognition of the documents of residents of some areas in Donbass, Lavrov said.

"No, this question has not been raised," Lavrov said, answering a TASS question. "I do not think that somebody sees any change in (Russia’s) stance (on Donbass republics).".

"The decree speaks for itself. It is written black and white in it that we are guided exceptionally by humanitarian consideration," he said. "Since the people, who happened to be in those areas in Donbass, are constantly subject to various blockades and various restrictions. They cannot receive pensions, social benefits, have no access to medical services, taking into consideration that many medical institutions in Donbass have been either destroyed or severely damaged. They cannot make private trips, taking into account lots of families who live on both sides of the border."

"For this reason and guided by humanitarian consideration, over the period of time until the Minsk agreements are implemented in full and until all the issues are resolved in compliance with the Minsk Package of Measures, the presidential decree allows to recognize the identity documents of people in Donbass, Donetsk and Lugansk so that they can get into Russia legitimately and then travel around Russia by rail and air," he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ‘On recognition in the Russian Federation of the documents and license plates of vehicles issued to Ukraine’s citizens and persons without citizenship, who permanently reside in the areas of certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.’

"The Russian Federation recognizes the identity documents, education and/or qualification documents; certificates of birth, marriage (divorce), change of name, death; vehicle ownership certificates and license plates of vehicles issued by relevant bodies (organizations), de facto operating in the given areas, to citizens of Ukraine and persons without citizenship permanently residing in those areas," the decree reads.

Ukrainian nationals and stateless persons who permanently live in the certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions will be able to enter Russia and leave it without applying for visas, just upon presenting IDs issued by relevant bodies de facto operating in the given areas.

Normandy Four ministers have emphasized it was crucial to approve the Donbass road map, Lavrov said.

"It was said that the road map should be drawn up, as it will schedule all the steps for implementation of the Minsk-2 (Minsk peace agreements) political part," Lavrov said.

Minsk accords

Minsk provisions backed by leaders of the "Normandy Four" group assembling Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in the Belarussian capital in February 2015 envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and eastern region people’s militias starting that month.

A 13-point package sought withdrawal of heavy weapons from a line disengaging Kiev troops and militias alongside measures for a long-term political settlement in Donbass.

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