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MOSCOW, September 13. /ITAR-TASS/. Process of establishing long-term ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is still afoot, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday as he spoke on a primetime political talk show of the Moscow-based TV Tsentr channel.
When the anchorman asked him how he could describe the situation in Ukraine - as a termination of war or as a temporary lull - Lavrov used the word ‘ceasefire’.
“It relies on a document signed after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had put forward a seven-point initiative,” he said. “Along with it, we made known our readiness to work on these items together with all the parties involved in the /Ukrainian/ conflict - the Kiev authorities, the forces supporting them, as well as the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR).”
“This initiative made it possible to convene the conference in Minsk where a document was signed,” Lavrov said. “At his moment, our own assessments and the opinions of OSCE observers suggest that the ceasefire is working on the whole, albeit with certain hitches that are small enough so far, thank God.”
“Sporadic exchanges of fire occur on both sides but the process of establishing of durable peace is still in progress,” he said.
“I’ll refrain from overly optimistic assessments because some people would like to undermine this process and to switch the situation back to the track of warring,” Lavrov said.
He said he meant first and foremost the detachments set up by oligarchs. These units do not report to Kiev and view the Ukrainian Armed forces as fly-by-night travel companions, he said adding that a considerable section of the ‘national guard’ also fell into this category.
Apart from Igor Kolomoisky, there are other oligarchs sponsoring the similar combatant units like the Donbass, Aidar, Dniepropetrovsk, and Azov battalions.
“Also, there’s the national guard which is financed to some degree from Ukraine’s state budget and through contribution by overseas sponsors, although it fulfills the orders of the Supreme Commander far from always,” Lavrov said.
Most of the points in the Minsk protocol on the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine need clarification with only the ceasefire provision being subject to immediate enforcement, Lavrov said.
“This provision [on secession of fire] is clear and can be implemented. It is being implemented already. We want the OSCE to increase as soon as possible the number of observers in areas of confrontation where the sides need to be disengaged now,” the minister told.
Most of the other provisions need to be clarified, he said, referring specifically to a law on the temporary self-rule in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
“We don’t know what it will be like. When the militiamen subscribed to it, they made it clear that they would determine their attitude towards it depending on its content and certainly bearing in mind that this is not the end of the road but the beginning of a complex political process which is also one of the obligations assumed by Ukraine and the militias,” Lavrov said.
“This is an inclusive political dialogue which should focus on all the crucial issues that are related to the constitution of Ukraine and to how the regions will be built into the system which I hope will allow all people to live together and respect traditions, customs, culture and values of each other,” he said.
Moscow is hoping that Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko will take all measures to ensure that his government does not torpedo the Minsk agreements on the resolution of the crisis in south-eastern regions of the country.
“The way Kiev construes these agreements, there are many controversial interpretations, including calls for rejecting the peace efforts and beginning an offensive, using the entire arsenal of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Lavrov told TV Tsentr's Pravo Znat programme (The Right to Know).
At the same time, Poroshenko “constantly reiterates his commitment to these peace agreements”, he said.
“We hope after all that he, as an embodiment of some legitimacy that emerged after the May 25 presidential election, will perform his functions as supreme commander-in-chief, take all measures and use his presidential powers to ensure that the government that is working in Kiev and is accountable to the president does not undermine the decision he authorised and approved,” Lavriov said.
Immediately after the Minsk agreements had been signed, “Russia and the militias called on the OSCE monitors who are already working in Ukraine to urgently go to the area where the truce had been declared, the so-called ‘disengagement area’”, Lavrov said.
“OSCE representatives must monitor everything that is happening there, including the actions undertaken not by the armed forces of Ukraine but by National Guard units and different battalions. They did not take part in the talks. Only former President Leonid Kuchma participated on behalf of Ukraine,” the minister said.
“We were assured by the top leadership of Ukraine that he had ample powers to make agreements and answer for the obligations assumed by the Ukrainian leadership. These include an obligation to control all those who are fighting against Lugansk and Donetsk,” Lavrov said.
A ceasefire achieved in the Minsk agreements should have been reached long before since the top priority in these agreements must be the willingness to preserve human lives, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in the Pravo Znat /Right to Know/ programme on the TV Tsentr channel on Saturday.
Commenting on assumptions that if the ceasefire had been reached later, the militias would have built on their earlier territorial successes, Lavrov said that “More than once the Ukrainians placed their stakes on military force having in mind the aim to regain control over more localities and to start negotiations from those positions.”
“We can go on logically from the point of view of militias who (or someone in their ranks) were probably not against seizing more territories and only then stopping the combat activities,” he said. “But if we encourage these moods, we will never stop. Someone will always think that he needs more to grab and only afterwards to sit at the negotiating table.”
The Russian foreign minister said that there was nothing preliminary in Minsk agreements.
“An opportunity to save human lives must not be put off for a day or two day or three,” he said.
“If there is an opportunity and political will, then at this very moment it must be immediately consolidated and formalization should be made on paper that the sides undertake such obligations.”
“By the way, Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, representatives from the DPR and LPR - authoritative leaders who are respected and supported by the population in their regions - signed the document. I am confident that they were guided by these considerations I am speaking about - the willingness to save as many people as possible and to prevent further destructions of vital infrastructure in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions.”