I would like to start with the situation in the East of Ukraine and the peace process based on the Minsk agreements.
As you know, these issues have been specifically discussed during the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Normandy Four on April 13 in Berlin.
In the course of negotiations the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin emphasized several points of critical importance to Ukraine.
First. The militants of particular areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as Russia continue to imitate the process of withdrawal of heavy equipment from the demarcation line. The shelling of positions of ATO forces from their side and military clashes they provoke have recently intensified, which unfortunately continues to cause losses among Ukrainian soldiers.
As before, the militants continue to obstruct access of the OSCE SMM to most of the territory under their control, which makes it impossible for observers to verify the withdrawal of heavy equipment.
Second. Pavlo Klimkin presented Ukraine’s vision of implementing the above said agreements. In our opinion, a civil-military mission to support compliance with Minsk agreements may be fitting instrument. The Minister presented the reasoning and arguments, which were generally well-received by the participants. We expect that the discussion of ways for practical implementation of this initiative will continue in New York and Brussels in the near future.
Third. The Minister emphasized that the Trilateral Contact Group remains the primary format for negotiations on all the other peacemaking aspects, including political and humanitarian issues. In this context, it is important to note the decision to establish four working groups within its framework – on security issues, political process, humanitarian issues and economic issues. Ukraine is ready to immediately begin the actual establishment of these groups. However, this will require holding full-fledged consultations within the Trilateral Contact Group.
As you know, the meeting in Berlin resulted in a joint statement. Besides the aforementioned issue of establishing working groups, it contains a call for withdrawal of mortars, heavy armaments with caliber less than 100 mm, an all types of tanks conducted under OSCE SMM supervision. This requires constant and unconstrained access for observers.
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Amid the Russian Federation’s public rhetoric about its interest in a peaceful resolution of the situation in the Donbas region and alleged non-involvement in the activities of terrorist groups operating in certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the unfortunate reality is that Russia continues to play an active role in the hostilities in the region and to increase military presence along the border with Ukraine.
Over the past week, positions of Ukraine’s Armed Forces at the Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, and other directions have been shelled over 360 times, including by mortars and artillery with caliber greater than 100 mm, which should have been withdrawn from the boundary line.
Active aerial reconnaissance by over 150 UAVs, as well as intrusion into Ukrainian airspace by 5 Russian Armed Forces’ UAVs near Milove settlement, Luhansk oblast, have also been recorded.
Russian military instructors participated in exercises held by the illegal military formations, which included the use of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, and “Grad” multiple launch rocket systems and took place in Illiriya, Malomykolayivka, Oleksandrivsk, Sontseve settlements, among others.
In the areas of Krasnodar region bordering Ukraine, there has been evidence of military aviation exercises as well as aerial reconnaissance by the Russian Armed Forces’ UAVs along the Russian-Ukrainian border in Sumy oblast, specifically around Kornyevo and Sudzha settlements in Kursk region.