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Ukraine Defense Ministry cancels order on Aidar battalion disbandment - negotiating group

February 02, 2015, 23:49 UTC+3 KIEV
Earlier, a few hundred fighters from the Aidar battalion held a protest rally, during which they demanded the resignation of Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko and the Arseny Yatsenyuk government
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KIEV, February 2. /TASS/. The order to disband the Aidar battalion has been canceled, participants of the negotiating group told people who gathered in front of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in Kiev for protest Monday.

"The order to disband military unit 0624 [Aidar battalion] has been canceled," they said.

A TASS correspondent reported from the site that demonstrators met the statement with screams of joy.

Earlier, a few hundred fighters from the Aidar battalion held a protest rally, during which they demanded the resignation of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Arseny Yatsenyuk government. They also urged Kiev residents to join their rally.

On Monday, more than 200 fighters of the Aidar battalion blocked Vozdukhoflotsky Avenue in downtown Kiev. The rally’s participants stopped a trolleybus and turned it across the highway. After that, they started burning car tires and then attacked firefighters who were trying to extinguish the flames. A few firefighters were injured.

This was the second action of Aidar fighters who protest against the battalion’s disbandment. The first action was held January 30.

Aidar is a Ukrainian volunteer battalion officially subordinate to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have repeatedly reported on illegal actions and violations of citizens’ rights by its fighters.

Amnesty International accused battalion fighters of war crimes. According to a Human Rights Watch representative, the Ukrainian government is investigating crimes by Aidar fighters.

Russian law enforcers suspect Aidar of shelling civilians in eastern Ukraine.

In December 2014, Ukrainian General Staff Chief Viktor Muzhenko said the Aidar battalion should be reorganized by the end of 2014.

Aidar commander Sergey Melnichuk said in late January that the battalion had been disbanded.

Thousands have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands have fled Ukraine’s southeast as a result of clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev’s military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over parts of the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics (DPR and LPR), according to UN data.

A ceasefire was agreed upon at talks between the parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the OSCE on September 5, 2014 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.

Numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since.

A memorandum was adopted on September 19, 2014 in Minsk by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.

A "day of silence" in eastern Ukraine began at 09:00 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on December 9. It was seen as another attempt by both parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict to put an end to hostilities. Both Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics voiced the necessity to start withdrawal of heavy armaments, swap prisoners and demilitarize the region.

The situation in the region deteriorated when a passenger bus bound from Donetsk to Zlatoustovka was shelled on January 13. Twelve civilians were killed and 16 wounded.

Plenipotentiary representative of the DPR at talks of the Contact Group on Ukraine Denis Pushilin said Monday that 7,000 people, with most of them civilians, have been killed in Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk regions) during the period of hostilities there.

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