OSCE to monitor truce violation areas: Kiev

3rd March 2015, Comments 0 comments

The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany have agreed to send observers to flashpoint sites in eastern Ukraine as sporadic deadly attacks continue to rattle a shaky truce, Kiev said Tuesday.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin described the situation on the ground as "very difficult and tense", three weeks after a peace roadmap was hammered out in Minsk.

Kiev's military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said three soldiers had been killed and nine injured in the past 24 hours, but did not say where.

Since the February 12 truce, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have spoken a number of times on shoring up the ceasefire, including implementation of one of the key conditions -- the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline.

In a readout of their latest conversation issued by the Ukrainian presidency, the four leaders behind the ceasefire "supported Ukraine's suggestion to send monitors to all locations of ceasefire violations".

The intensified monitoring by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe would start with 10 flashpoints, including the Donetsk airport area which fell to the pro-Russian separatists in January after months of deadly combat.

The offices of Hollande, Merkel, and Putin called for greater OSCE involvement and suggested that the monitoring mission publish a daily report on its observations.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the leaders "agreed that the OSCE should play a more important role in monitoring the ceasefire and the withdrawal of weapons."

The French presidency noted "progress" in the implementation of the ceasefire but said that the situation in eastern Ukraine -- where more than 6,000 people have died since April -- needed to be improved.

The Kremlin also backed "rigorous adherence to the ceasefire and a continuation of the pullback of heavy weapons".

Seibert said another meeting on Ukraine would be held Friday in Berlin at the level of senior officials.

Kiev said the three leaders also asked Putin to free Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is on hunger strike in a Moscow jail, where she is being held on charges of involvement in the killing of two Russian reporters.

- Sporadic shelling -

The UN said Monday there had been "merciless devastation of civilian lives and infrastructure" in Ukraine and that more than 6,000 people had been killed and over one million displaced.

While fighting has eased since the ceasefire, Kiev said Monday that rebels shelled the village of Pisky near the bombed-out shell of Donetsk airport overnight, and also attacked the nearby villages of Avdiivka and Opytne.

Another army spokesman reported combat near the village of Sokolnyki in the Lugansk region.

"The situation on the ground is very difficult and tense despite a declared ceasefire," Klimkin said on a visit to Tokyo.

"There was always a problem of lack of trust in relations between Ukraine and Russia... we can't rely on any kinds of agreements between us and Russians."

The OSCE, which is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire, has been reporting almost daily on movements of weapons in the east, but conceded Monday it was "not yet in a position to provide verification of withdrawals".

To confirm a definite pullback, the mission would need "baseline information" on the types, numbers, and locations of the weapons and "full and unfettered access" to areas supposedly cleared of the guns.

Both sides claim to be moving back their armour from the frontline but Kiev has accused the rebels of merely shuffling weapons around the frontline.

After talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was hopeful the truce would be fully implemented "within the next hours, and certainly not more than days."

So far there had been a "kind of cherry-picking" approach to deal, he said, warning of further Western sanctions on Russia.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also said Monday the ceasefire was "fragile but it seems to be holding," warning that the "slightest infringement" must not be tolerated.

© 2015 AFP

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