Eastern Ukraine cease fire, Zelenskiy, Putin discuss conflict.
With Russia and Ukraine agreeing to a ceasefire starting midnight on July 27, their respective leaders discussed extra measures to support the ceasefire.
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have been fighting with pro-government forces from Ukraine since 2014, in a war that has killed over 13,000.
“The leaders agreed on the need for an urgent implementation of extra measures to support the ceasefire regime in Donbass,”Zelenskiy’s office said. Putin, meanwhile, told Zelenskiy that Ukraine’s decision to hold local elections in 2020 would contradict the Minsk peace accords signed in 2014.
Brokered in 2015 by France and Germany, the Minsk agreements aimed to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists that flared up in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Minsk deal helped reduce the scope of hostilities, but Ukrainian forces and the rebels have continued to exchange artillery salvos and gunfire.
Zelenskiy, in turn, told Putin that more steps were needed to free Ukrainian citizens being held in eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Russa, Radio Free Europe reported.
Ukrainian and rebel forces in war-torn eastern Ukraine have started preparing for a full and comprehensive ceasefire scheduled to begin at midnight on Monday.
Rebel officials said Sunday they have instructed their troops about the ceasefire and issued a decree banning weapon use. Ukraine’s military said their forces have begun preparations for the ceasefire.
If upheld, it would pave the way for implementing other clauses of the Minsk peace deal, the office of Ukraine’s president said earlier this week.
The agreements envisaged that Ukraine can regain control over the border with Russia in the separatist-held regions only after they are granted broad self-rule and hold local elections.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who won the 2018 election on promises to end the conflict, pushed for tweaking the timeline laid out in the accord so that Ukraine gets control of its border first before local elections are held, but the Kremlin insists the deal should be implemented without any revisions.
The new ceasefire deal was reached on Wednesday and was welcomed by EU officials.
During his traditional Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Frances also commended the deal, adding that it needed to be put into practice to rebuild confidence and lay the foundations for a much needed and long-awaited reconciliation with the people.