MINSK, September 05 /ITAR-TASS/. The Contact Group on the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine will meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
It did not provide any details as to who will represent the negotiating sides: Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with Ilkka Kanerva, Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, on Thursday he was hopeful that President Vladimir Putin’s calls made in his peace plan would be heeded in Kiev and the embattled south-eastern regions of Ukraine.
“We hope that the calls will be heard in Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk in the first place. And we will be prepared, together with the OSCE, to provide practical assistance to the warring sides, through the Contact Group, to help them move towards stabilisation,” Lavrov said.
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko expects a document to be signed in Minsk that would give a start to the peaceful settlement in the east of the country.
He said an order to stop gunfire would be issued to Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine at 11:00 GMT Friday if a step-by-step peace plan was adopted at the Minsk meeting.
The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics on Thursday said they were ready to order their forces to cease fire on September 5.
But Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko said militias would cease fire if the Ukrainian army took a similar step.
He said the so-called “counter-terrorism operation” in the south-eastern regions known as Donbass involved not only the regular Ukrainian army but also the National Guard, the nationalistic Right Sector and private battalions.
“They have foiled agreements many times before,” Zakharchenko said.
The DPR government has repeatedly stated its readiness to cease fire to prevent civilian casualties, but Kiev only demanded that the militias lay down arms and surrender.
“The military situation has now changed not in Kiev’s favour. We hope that humane initiatives will be heard this time,” the prime minister said.
The Contact Group has met twice in Minsk, on July 31 and September 1. Ukraine is represented by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russia by its Ambassador in Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, and the OSCE by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini. Also attending were the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics' representatives, Andrei Purgin and Alexei Karyakin.
It calls for ending active offensive operations by armed forces, armed units and militia groups in southeast Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas;
withdrawing Ukrainian armed forces units to a distance that would make it impossible to fire on populated areas using artillery and all types of multiple launch rocket systems;
allowing for full and objective international monitoring of compliance with the ceasefire and monitoring of the situation in the safe zone created by the ceasefire;
excluding all use of military aircraft against civilians and populated areas in the conflict zone;
organising the exchange of individuals detained by force on an ‘all for all’ basis without any preconditions;
opening humanitarian corridors for refugees and for delivering humanitarian cargoes to towns and populated areas in Donbass - Donetsk and Lugansk regions;
and making it possible for repair brigades to come to damaged settlements in the Donbass region in order to repair and rebuild social facilities and life-supporting infrastructure and help the region to prepare for the winter.