Russia and Ukraine agree to restore 2020 ceasefire deal in Donbas

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to restore a 2020 ceasefire deal brokered by Europe's OSCE security organisation in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, prompting a top Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak to say that the coming holidays "should be peaceful" the BBC reports.

Only this week Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened "adequate military-technical response measures" if what he called the West's aggressive line continued. The issue was expected to come up on Thursday during his lengthy annual press conference.

Russian officials deny any plans for an invasion, however the defence ministry in Moscow said it was carrying out military exercises in the area on Thursday and Friday. Germany has expressed alarm at Russia's troop movements and said dialogue was "now essential to try to defuse a major crisis".

Russia has demanded guarantees that Nato will abandon military activity in Eastern Europe and not allow Ukraine to join the Western defensive alliance. It has now sent the US proposed dates for talks next month, according to reports from Moscow.

More than 14,000 people have been killed in the 7 year war with Russian-backed separatists who seized large areas of the Donbas. Although combat ended in 2015, clashes continued to break out and a July 2020 ceasefire was meant to bring the violence to an end.

Ceasefire violations have surged of late, and defence officials in Kyiv accuse Russia of sending 122,000 troops to within 200km (125 miles) of Ukraine's borders. A further 143,500 are stationed within 400km, they allege.

Late on Wednesday the two countries along with the Russian-backed rebels agreed with the OSCE to reinforce the truce, in a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group or TCG.

OSCE Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen praised the deal as particularly important as his organisation's monitors have recorded five times more ceasefire violations this month than in December last year.

"This is a step towards de-escalation," Mr Yermak said on Facebook. "We hope that this time the ceasefire will be lasting and will help save lives of Ukrainian defenders and civilians."

On Thursday Ukraine's joint forces headquarters said no breaches had been reported by the separatists in the past 24 hours.


Image: By ВО «Свобода» - https://picasaweb.google.com/102652274152528116947/12062014#6024400883891185522, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...


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