Deal reached on enforcing Ukraine ceasefire
Agreement reached for creation of buffer zone and withdrawal of foreign fighters from conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.
Participants in Ukrainian peace talks have agreed to create a buffer zone to separate government troops and pro-Russian fighters, as well as withdraw foreign fighters and heavy weapons from the area of conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The deal reached early on Saturday by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) marked an effort to add substance to a ceasefire agreement that was signed on September 5 but has been frequently broken by clashes.
The new deal signed after hours of talks that dragged late into the night envisages setting up a buffer zone that would be 30 kilometres wide.
They said after the talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk that all heavy weapons should be withdrawn from that zone.
The negotiators also reached agreement on the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries – a diplomatic reference to Russians fighting alongside the rebels.
‘Mercenaries on both sides’
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of fuelling the insurgency in the mostly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine with weapons and soldiers.
Moscow has denied that, saying that Russians who joined the mutiny did so as private citizens.
Pressed to comment about the agreement on the withdrawal of foreign fighters, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, who represented Moscow in the talks, said that “those whom we call mercenaries are present on both sides”.
He said that the OSCE should control the pullout of foreign fighters.
Heidi Tagliavini, an OSCE envoy at the talks, said that the group’s monitors will be deployed to the buffer zone to monitor the deal.
The negotiators have left aside the most controversial issue – the future status of the rebel regions.
The Ukrainian parliament this week passed a law giving a broad autonomy to the areas controlled by the rebels, including the power to hold local elections and form their own police force.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of rebels in Donetsk, said that Ukraine and the rebels have various interpretation of the law and the talks should continue.