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MOSCOW, September 4. /TASS/. Russia's envoy to the European security watchdog OSCE has expressed hope that it will be possible to reach a lasting ceasefire in eastern Ukraine on the basis of an agreement between Ukrainian government forces and people’s militias to end shelling from September 1.
"It is encouraging that all parties to the internal Ukrainian conflict observe the truce along the contact line established with the start of a new school year," envoy Alexander Lukashevich said at a meeting of the OSCE permanent council. The text of his speech was published on Friday on the Russian foreign ministry’s website.
"We hope it will become possible to reach a full and lasting ceasefire on its basis in the near future," he said, adding that Russia regarded the current truce as an important step towards implementing provisions of the peace plan, signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February.
The Russian side expects that the security working subgroup formed as part of the Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis "will formalise an agreement on verifiable withdrawal of tanks, mortars and artillery under 100mm calibre", Lukashevich said, noting also that Moscow "will continue to take necessary measures to achieve a peaceful settlement in Ukraine serving the interests of all its citizens".
Kiev and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk agreed last week to strive for an end to all truce violations from September 1, the day that the new school year was to begin.
Comprehensive ceasefires have been declared twice over the past year, but sporadic clashes between the two forces continued. Both sides have blamed the other for the violations.
The Minsk agreement, brokered by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France February 12, envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and people’s militias starting from February 15.
This was to be followed by withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of military engagement by at least 15 kilometres (9 miles), prisoner release and agreement for international observers to monitor the truce.
Based on September’s stillborn Minsk peace protocol, the deal also laid out a road map for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give the war-torn eastern regions more autonomy.
Among the terms of the deal was a commitment to intensify the work of the Trilateral Contact Group comprising senior representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Four subgroups, tasked with addressing security, political, economic and humanitarian issues, are expected to advance work by the Contact Group in activating elements of the Minsk deal.