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UN calls for ‘spirit and letter’ of Ukraine agreements

The UN’s political affairs chief has urged all parties to the peace plan protocol for eastern Ukraine known as the Minsk Agreements, to avoid “any unilateral steps” that could undermine efforts to demilitarize the eastern conflict zone.

Rosemary DiCarlo was addressing the Security Council on Thursday in a meeting requested by Ukraine, and in the wake of Ukrainian presidential elections and the signing of a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier, that reportedly aims to allow citizens in parts of eastern Ukraine, to apply for Russian passports, under a simplified procedure.

Conflict in Ukraine between Government forces and largely pro-Russian separatists in the east during the past five years, have resulted in the deaths of more than 3,300 civilians, up to 9,000 injured, with around 3.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

Ms. DiCarlo quoted from the Russian citizenship decree, saying that the decision had been made “with a view to protecting human and citizens’ rights and freedoms”, adding that it had been welcomed by “entities in control in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.”

‘Unprecedented interference’ - Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities, in contrast, had “strongly protested the decree as an unprecedented interference by the Russian Federation in the country’s internal affairs and a violation of sovereignty…contrary to the Minsk Agreements”, she added.

“The United Nations expects that the spirit and the letter of the Minsk agreements will be respected by all concerned”, said the Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief. “To that end, we urge all parties to avoid any unilateral steps that may potentially undermine the implementation of these agreements and to address concerns through constructive dialogue in the existing negotiation formats.”

She also underlined the UN’s commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“Against the prevailing dangerous trajectory over the past five years, it is our sincere hope that at long-last, a new positive dynamic can emerge” she said. “This is essential for fostering national cohesion and lasting stability in Ukraine, and critical to the maintenance of peace and security in Europe.”

Solutions needed for Ukraine crisis ‘to avoid further suffering’

With half a million Ukrainians living within five kilometres of the “contact line” dividing the areas of military control, civilians on both sides face daily risks with “coping mechanisms” stretched to the limit, said Ursula Mueller, UN deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

She called on all parties to immediately stop using landmines, which were the leading cause of child casualties last year, noting that more than 1,000 civilians had been killed or injured by mines or explosive remnants of war since 2014.

Secondly, Ms. Mueller called for an end to “unpredictable” humanitarian access to the east, urging that it “should not be politicized”. Finally, she implored Council members and donors in the wider international community, to step up humanitarian funding.

The UN 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, aims to provide 2.3 million people with “protection and assistance to restore their access to livelihoods, essential services and critical infrastructure”, she said, but so far only 9 per cent of the funding has been received.

She called on the parties involved with the 2014 Minsk protocol, to find “solutions to this crisis, in order to avoid further suffering. The people of Ukraine deserve nothing less.”

Talks in Minsk ‘inconclusive’

Latest talks between the Trilateral Contact Group, consisting of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), proved “inconclusive” in recent days, on a new ceasefire recommitment, said Ms. DiCarlo, calling for a withdrawal of heavy weapons, disengagement of forces and more protection in the east, for civilians.

Briefing for the OSCE, alongside the Chief Monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Ertugrul Apakan, Special Representative Martin Sajdik, said that a “deepening divide” between parts of the east and the rest of Ukraine, was making the task of unifying the country harder, with different currency being used, and increasingly difficult journeys across the contact line.

“It is not enough to mitigate the effects of the divide”, said the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group. “We have to undertake all efforts to narrow and even to eradicate it. Statements by the future leadership of Ukraine make me optimistic that there is resolve, to actively work against this divide.”

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