Russian leader backs armed OSCE mission in east Ukraine

Russian leader backs armed OSCE mission in east Ukraine

Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:47PM

The Russian president has voiced support for the deployment of an armed monitoring mission to monitor the truce in the conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin “agreed to the deployment of such a mission,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

Peskov’s remarks follow Wednesday’s four-way talks on the Ukraine conflict between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine in the German capital, Berlin.

During the Berlin talks, the four leaders agreed to draw up a roadmap by the end of next month with a plan on how to implement the peace deal signed between Kiev and pro-Russia forces in Minsk, Belarus, last year.

The Minsk agreement calls for a cessation of hostilities, but violence has frequently flared up in the mainly Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.

At the end of the Berlin talks, the leaders agreed to give a bigger role to a peacekeeping mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the situation along a demarcation line and record possible truce violations.

“There is an understanding on the positive nature of the deployment of such a mission, but it needs to be worked out in the framework of the OSCE,” Peskov said.

However, the pro-Russian forces in the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Lugansk and Donetsk are against an armed OSCE mission.

Currently, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission has 580 unarmed staff based in eastern Ukraine. The mission’s mandate has been extended until the end of March 2017.

One of the Donetsk leaders, Denis Pushilin, said that his self-proclaimed republic was against the measure, adding that such a provision was not included in the peace deal.

“The fact that we are against an armed OSCE mission is not only the personal position of the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” said Pushilin, adding it “has been confirmed at rallies with several thousand people that took place on our territories.”

In June, more than 5,000 people took to the streets of Donetsk to protest against the presence of OSCE monitors in the war-torn region, one of many rallies against the monitoring group.

The Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine demand greater autonomy from the central government in Kiev.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine that has left more than 9,500 people dead and over 21,000 others injured, according to the United Nations.

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