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Contact Group on Ukrainian settlement to hold meeting in Minsk

March 23, 2016, 6:17 UTC+3 MINSK

According to sources close to talks, the first-ever joint meeting of sub-groups on security and political issues is planned in Minsk for today

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© Viktor Drachev/TASS

MINSK, March 23. /TASS/. The Contact Group on the settlement of situation in Ukraine will hold another meeting today. It will take place against the backdrop of unresolved political crisis in the country and negotiations on election in Donbass that stalled after the Paris meeting of the "Normandy Quartet."

At the ministerial meeting in the "Normandy format" on March 3 in the French capital, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin did not agree with the proposal supported by other foreign ministers to hold election in Donbass in June 2016. In the end, the sides did not manage to coordinate a plan of action for implementing the political part of the Minsk Agreements.

Shellings continue in the zone of conflict. The sides have been recently accusing each other of covert preparation for a military offensive which threatens the whole peace process. Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) are also concerned with the movement of Ukrainian forces to the so-called "grey zone" that was formed along the contact line after the sides withdrew heavy weaponry.

Nevertheless, the work of the Contact Group continues, and political issues - Donbass special status, amnesty, election in Donbass - remains on top of the agenda in the settlement process. "Other sub-groups are stalling without the resolution of political issues," DPR’s envoy to the Contact Group Denis Pushilin said last week. "I don’t think that any serious agreements will be reached at the meeting (on March 23) but the process should continue," he added.

Election in Donbass dominate agenda

According to sources close to talks, the first-ever joint meeting of sub-groups on security and political issues is planned in Minsk for today. "The topic for discussion is ensuring security of holding election," the source told Lugansk Inform Center. The participants in the ministerial meeting of the "Normandy Quartet" in Paris put forward the task to prepare and submit to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) until March 31 proposals on ensuring security at election.

Russia’s envoy to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov hopes for consistent work on the law on election in Donbass and holding the vote in June despite the unsuccessful attempt to coordinate the date in Paris. "The efforts of the Contact Group in the first half of 2016 should be focused on preparing a special law on holding local election in Donbass, as well as organizing an election campaign in the aforementioned timeframe," Gryzlov said. "The law on local election should be coordinated by Kiev and Donbass with mediation of Russia and OSCE," he added.

Gryzlov also noted that several politicians in Ukraine that are directly involved in the negotiations process and holding election, publicly state that Kiev will not organize local election neither in 2016 nor in 2017. They say that from five to 25 years is required for holding local election in Donbass. "By doing this, Kiev openly demonstrates its reluctance to implement not only the Package of measures but also the agreements reached in the ‘Normandy format’," the Russian envoy said.

Shellings of Donetsk filtration plant

At today’s meeting in Minsk, DPR representatives also plan to raise an issue of continuing shellings by Ukrainian forces of the Donetsk filtration plant that supplies water not only part of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (cities of Donetsk and Yasinovataya, villages of Vasilyevka and Spartak) but also several settlements controlled by Kiev (towns of Avdeyevka, Krasnogorovka and Verkhnetoretskoye).

In accordance with the task set by the foreign ministers of the "Normandy Quartet," the Contact Group will have to create a mechanism on preventing ceasefire violation and hold prisoner exchange by April 30.

Elections in "roadmap" on settlement

Local election in Donbass is one of the key points of the political settlement in Ukraine’s east. According to the Minsk Agreements, it should have taken place back in 2015, simultaneously with a constitutional reform in Ukraine supposed to grant special status to separate parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. However, dates were repeatedly postponed for adopting a law on special status and coordinating a law on local election due to Kiev’s reluctance to fulfill its commitments in the framework of the Minsk accords.

At the end of 2015, the leaders of the "Normandy Quartet" set a new deadline - first half of 2016. However, Ukraine still refuses to discuss preparations for election citing security concerns in the region and demanding to return control over the Russian-Ukrainian border which should be done after the election.

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