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Donbass conflict to remain ‘frozen’ in absence of political solution - envoy

Russia insists that the opposing sides in Donbass need to exchange prisoners as soon as possible, Boris Gryzlov said
Russia’s Special Representative to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov  EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV
Russia’s Special Representative to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov

MINSK, February 14. /TASS/. The conflict in Donbass will remain ‘frozen’ for a long period of time unless a political solution is found, Russia’s Special Representative to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov told reporters after a regular round of peace talks in Minsk on Wednesday.

"The Russian delegation has again pointed out that if Ukraine does not stop blocking the work for a political solution to the conflict, the current situation will be doomed to long-term freezing," Gryzlov said.

"That is why the fundamental condition for the settlement is that Ukraine’s legislation needs to ensure a special status for Donbass and to introduce it under the Steinmeier formula, along with amnesty for participants in the conflict," he added. "Therefore, we raised a question that the operation of the political subgroup should be defrosted by Ukraine."

Russia insists that the opposing sides in Donbass need to exchange prisoners as soon as possible guided by the ‘all for all’ principle, Gryzlov said.

"Russia insists that the second stage of the detainees’ exchange be carried out as soon as possible to implement the ‘all for all’ principle," he said adding "four times more people are held in Ukraine."

At the meeting of the Contact Group, Russia drew attention to the fact that one high-ranking Ukrainian official told a national television channel "clapping his hands" about a creeping offensive by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, boasting about an advance of ten kilometers and more.

"Those remarks clarify why, in defiance of the framework agreement on disengagement of forces, signed by the parties to the conflict and mediators, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are derailing disengagement of forces near Stanitsa Luganskaya after already 16 periods of seven-day silence," Gryzlov said.

Apart from that, the Contact Group emphasized that it was inadmissible to open fire at OSCE drones and that ceasefire violators should be brought to disciplinary accountability envisioned in corresponding orders.

"Ukraine has never published such orders, violations are not investigated and nobody is held responsible," Gryzlov said. "Nobody should avoid punishment for ceasefire violations."

The Contact Group voiced serious concern about delays in humanitarian problems. Among them is reconstruction of a bridge in Stanitsa Luganskaya, which Ukraine has been blocking for a year. Also, Ukraine hinders the opening of a checkpoint near the village of Schastye.

In conclusion, Russia’s envoy to the Contact Group noted that economic and humanitarian issues were stumbling over Ukraine’s economic and transport blockade of Donbass.

"The blockade, which runs counter the Minsk accords, as well as a political process slowdown, remains one of the most serious obstacles for Donbass people to get back to normal life," Gryzlov said.

On February 12, 2015, representatives of the Contact Group on settlement of the situation in Donbass endorsed the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements that had been coordinated with heads of the Normandy Four member states (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine) in the Belarusian capital Minsk. The document stipulates ceasefire, arms withdrawal, amnesty, restoration of economic ties and implementation of a major constitutional reform in Ukraine that should lead to decentralization of power with regard to the special status of certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. However, this plan remains overdue. The Ukrainian side completely refused to fulfil the political items of the agreement, citing uncertainty in security issues.