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Contact group on Ukraine to discuss weapons withdrawal and Donbass special status

August 03, 2015, 2:01 UTC+3 MINSK
Despite the fact that this range of issues for discussion has been defined a long time ago, there has been no visible progress in resolving them recently
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© Viktor Drachev/TASS

MINSK, August 3, /TASS/. The Contact Group on Ukraine will convene again in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday. Its members are due to address the issue of Shirokino’s demilitarization, to finalize an agreement on the withdrawal of weapons under 100 mm caliber, to discuss the political part of the peace process "road map" and humanitarian and economic problems.

Despite the fact that this range of issues for discussion has been defined a long time ago, there has been no visible progress in resolving them recently. To break the impasse, envoys of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics (DPR, LPR) Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deynego suggested that the Contact Group members continued their meetings until a consensus was found on one of the central issues on the agenda - a special status for the war-torn Donbass region.

The officials in Minsk regarded the initiative favorably, recalling that, if the proposal came into force, the meeting "would become not the first marathon talks in Minsk." However, "the most important thing is not the duration of the negotiations but their effectiveness, the way it was in February during a meeting in the "Normandy format", spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Mironchik told TASS. He noted that Minsk would do everything it could to make the talks successful.

The question of Shirokino’s demilitarization has long been on the agenda. Recently, the leaders of the "Normandy Four" (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) said it was necessary to come up with a practical solution to the problem before August 3. "The heads of state took note of the withdrawal of separatists’ forces in the Shirokino area and asked the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and experts of the Joint Coordination Center for Ceasefire Monitoring to develop practical solutions for withdrawing the Ukrainian forces no later than August 3," the Elysee Palace said following telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin, Pyotr Poroshenko, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel, which took place on July 23.

Another issue on which the parties are close to reaching an agreement is weapons withdrawal. The text of an agreement on the phased withdrawal of tanks, armored vehicles and weapons under 100 mm caliber from the contact line, which the parties have been discussing for several months now, was agreed by the Contact Group on July 21 but has not been signed yet.

The militias, ahead of the meeting on July 21, unilaterally began to withdraw weapons under 100 mm caliber from the contact line. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military continued shelling Donetsk, Gorlovka and other populated localities of the Donbas region, which resulted in more casualties.

The constitutional reform in Ukraine is a basic requirement of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements signed in the Belarusian capital on February 12. In accordance with this document Ukraine needs to adopt a new constitution, which envisages, as a key element, the decentralization taking into account specific features of separate districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions coordinated with representatives of these regions, and also permanent legislation on a special status for these areas.

Having prepared the draft amendments, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said the requirements of the Minsk accords had been met. However, the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics argue that this is not the case, since the draft constitutional reform was not coordinated with their representatives thus violating the Minsk agreements. They noted that it had been considered "neither by the working group on political issues nor by the Contact Group on Ukraine."

"To date, they in no way conform to the Minsk peace process. They must be cancelled," said LPR envoy Vladislav Deynego.

Moscow has repeatedly noted the importance of the dialogue between the parties on the political agenda. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently "urged the Ukrainian side to strictly follow the letter and spirit of the Minsk Package of Measures," the Kremlin said. The envoys of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics also demand direct dialogue between the parties. Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deynego have called on Kiev to finalize the agreement on a special status for the Donbass region during the next meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk and expressed willingness to work until consensus is found.

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