UN seeks 'immediate' heavy arms pullout in E. Ukraine

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The UN Security Council condemned on Wednesday "continuous violations of the ceasefire" in Ukraine's east and called for an immediate withdrawal of heavy weapons.

Written by France with support from Germany, the resolution also sought expanded efforts to help affected civilians.

The resolution, unanimously adopted by the Council, underlined "grave concern about the recent deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine and its severe impact on the civilian population."

It is the first public comment since January 2017 by the United Nations on the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists.

"It's been a long time since the Council adopted anything on Ukraine and we are very happy," Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.

Berlin and Moscow, along with Paris, signed peace agreements in Minsk in 2015 that aimed to put an end to fighting between Russia-backed fighters and Ukrainian troops.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in April 2014.

The UN text is "very constructive, which confirms the validity and the sole validity of the Minsk Agreements" as the platform to reach a political solution, said Nebenzia, whose country this month holds the Council's rotating presidency.

"It is especially important today when the Minsk Agreements are being sabotaged by some parties," he continued, in an implied reference to Kiev.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after mass protests ousted a pro-Russian government in Kiev, pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine rebelled, and Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region that same year.

Kiev and Moscow-backed rebels have repeatedly accused each other of violating a number of truces.

The European Union in March extended by a further six months sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials over their suspected involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict.

Evoking "the tragic humanitarian situation," the Security Council emphasized the need "for scaling up efforts to alleviate suffering of the civilian population affected by the conflict."

France's UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters this was the first time that language had been agreed to on the eastern Ukraine humanitarian situation.

The text "sends a strong signal on putting into effect the Minsk agreements and underlines the unity of the members of the Security Council" to make gains, Delattre said.

French, German, Russian and Ukrainian ministers are to meet Monday in Berlin to revive the stalled Ukrainian peace process.

France has underlined that review of Europe's sanctions against Moscow depends on progress.


© 2018 AFP

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