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German foreign minister says there are signs of possible de-escalation in eastern Ukraine

February 22, 2015, 19:48 UTC+3 BERLIN
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BERLIN, February 22. /TASS/. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Sunday there were first signs of possible de-escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

He told Bild Online there were signs indicating de-escalation of tension in eastern Ukraine after the exchange of prisoners between the parties to the conflict. He said both were apparently ready to begin pullout of heavy weapons from key points of the frontline, as had been agreed in the Minsk agreements.

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE /Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/ adopted a memorandum on September 19, 2014 in Minsk. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on 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.

Marathon talks between the Normandy Four leaders - Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko - in Minsk on February 12 yielded a package of agreements, which in particular envisaged ceasefire between the Ukrainian conflicting sides starting from midnight on February 15.

Concurrently, the Belarusian capital hosted a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine involving Ukraine’s ex-president Leonid Kuchma, Kiev’s special representative for humanitarian issues Viktor Medvedchuk, the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics /DPR and LPR/ Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, and Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and OSCE’s envoy Heidi Tagliavini, both acting as mediators.

As a result, a package of measures was adopted to implement the Minsk agreements. The package of measures envisages the pullback of all heavy weapons by both parties to locations equidistant from the disengagement line in order to create a security zone at least 50 kilometers wide for artillery systems with a caliber of 100 mm or more, a zone of security 70 kilometers wide for multiple rocket launchers and a zone 140 kilometers wide for multiple rocket launchers Tornado-S, Uragan and Smerch and the tactical rocket systems Tochka-U.

The final document says that the Ukrainian troops are to be pulled back away from the current line of engagement and the militias of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, from the engagement line set by the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014.

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