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Normandy Four diplomats to meet in Paris over implementation of Minsk accords

March 25, 2015, 3:38 UTC+3 PARIS
Russia will be represented by State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin
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PARIS, March 25. /TASS/. Deputy foreign ministers of the Normandy Four /Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France/ will meet in Paris on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Russia will be represented by State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin. The meeting is expected to begin in the afternoon at the French foreign ministry.

A key problem topic is the pullout of heavy weapons from the line of contact in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics (DPR and LPR) and their leaders, Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, respectively, have repeatedly said Kiev has not fulfilled this provision of the agreements in full and its artillery systems are still deployed in the buffer zone. Apart from that, Donetsk and Lugansk claim Kiev does not disclose information about storage areas for pullout weapons.

Another major provision of the Minsk agreements is exchange of prisoners of war in the all-for-all format. This provision has not been implemented either, so it will be another subject for discussion by Normandy Four diplomats.

A separate provision of the Minsk agreements is Kiev’s liability to conduct a political reform to grant a special status to certain Donbass territories and to amend the country’s constitution to promote decentralization of power. A law on Donbass’ special status was seen as step one on this path but Kiev said this law would come into force only after local elections in the DPR and LPR under Ukrainian laws.

Apart from that, Ukraine’s authorities have revised a list of settlements to be covered by the law with no preliminary agreement with the DPR and LPR. As a result, a number of populated localities taken by DPR and LPR militias in January-February 2015 were excluded from this list. Moreover, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada /parliament/ issued a resolution labelling the DPR and LPR as "occupied territories."

Such "amendments" are beyond the Minsk agreements of February 12, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. In his words, Russia will take efforts to ensure strict implementation of the Minsk agreements.

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.

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.

A separate point of the document provides for release and exchange of all prisoners of war and illegally held persons on the "all for all" principle that should be completed after the weapons withdrawal - on the fifth day at the latest. The sides also agreed on restoring the Ukrainian side’s control over the state border throughout the conflict zone.

Another point of the document provides for withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and mercenaries from Ukraine’s territory under OSCE supervision; all illegal armed groups shall be disarmed.

Besides, according to Item 4 of the Minsk agreements, Kiev agreed that within a 30-day period of time the Verkhovna Rada parliament would adopt a draft law on a special political and economic status for certain parts in Donbass. The deadline expired on March 14.

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