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MOSCOW, March 16. /TASS/. Some 180 Ukrainian servicemen remain in captivity to the militia in Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk regions in east Ukraine), Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said.
"The DPR and LPR [self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics] keep holding 180 hostages from among Ukrainian servicemen. We have handed them all who were as part of legal procedures cleared and prepared for handover," Klimkin told the Kommersant business daily.
However, he failed to name the exact number of militiamen held by Kiev and which categories of captives were not pardoned yet.
Human rights commissioner in the DPR Darya Morozova said March 10 that the self-proclaimed republic is ready to free all captured Ukrainian servicemen but added that "the exchange process is being deliberately delayed by Kiev."
Participants of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in Ukraine signed the Package of Measures on implementation of the Minsk agreements on February 12. The sixth point of the document obliges all parties to the conflict in Donbass to swap prisoners in line with the "all for all" formula.
Developments in east Ukraine
Regular talks of the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group on east Ukrainian settlement comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were held in the Belarusian capital Minsk on February 10-12. Talks of the Normandy Four leaders on the Ukrainian issue also ended February 12 in Minsk.
A 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September Minsk agreements was adopted at those talks.
The package in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of a special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
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, have left thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee Ukraine’s embattled east.
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the OSCE agreed on a ceasefire at talks 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. The ceasefire has reportedly been numerously violated since.
Ukraine’s parliament on September 16, 2014 adopted the law on a special self-rule status for certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions for three years. The law took effect October 18, 2014 but was then repealed by Kiev.
The Trilateral Contact Group adopted a memorandum on September 19, 2014 in Minsk. 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.
The Contact Group’s meetings in late December 2014 and on January 31, 2015 did not bring major results and the Group had to meet again in February 2015.