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Russian members of Ukrainian ceasefire control mission de-facto not allowed to work — head

The Russian mission at the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) has left Ukraine

NEKHOTEYEVKA CHECKPOINT /Belgorod Region/, December 20. /TASS/. Russian officers taking part in the work of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) of the ceasefire in Ukraine's Donbass have de-facto been barred from accessing the line of contact, the Russian mission’s chief said on Wednesday.

"During the past few months, as a result of the Ukrainian side’s actions, JCCC activities were narrowed to a minimum, our stay in Ukraine was becoming more and more complicated, and access to the contact line separating the sides was nearly blocked for officers of the Russian mission," the head of the Russian mission at the JCCC, Lt.-Gen. Sergey Kostarev, said.

Kostarev, along with a group of 75 Russian officers, returned to Russia on Tuesday evening via the Nekhoteyevka checkpoint. The move completed the withdrawal of the Russian mission at the JCCC from Ukraine.

"Provocations against Russian officers at the JCCC were carried out systematically, both when they crossed [the Russian-Ukrainian] border during rotation and when they performed their monitoring tasks in the conflict zone," the official said.

According to the official, Kiev also de-facto made Russia’s further participation in the commission’s work impossible by introducing biometric profiling for those willing to cross the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko signed a relevant decree in August 2017.

"Numerous requests to the Ukrainian side about the need to settle this issue produced no results. Under those circumstances, further work of the Russian mission at the JCCC appears to be impossible," Kostarev said.

He added that during the three years of the commission’s existence, Ukraine failed to assign any formal status to members of the Russian mission at the JCCC.

Russian servicemen joined the JCCC on a request from Chief of the General Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko, with a purpose to assist in settling the internal political conflict in eastern Ukraine.

On December 19, the Russian officers left the territories of the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. The issues of Russia’s presence in the JCCC is expected to be raised at a meeting of the Trilateral Contact group on the settlement of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday.