Ukrainian rebels urge OSCE to convince Kiev to abide by peace agreement

Ukrainian rebels urge OSCE to convince Kiev to abide by peace agreement
Ukrainian rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk have urged the OSCE and Russia to persuade Ukrainian authorities to fulfill the conditions of the Minsk peace deal, citing the absence of a ceasefire and no progress in granting the regions a special status.

Kiev has not yet implemented an “immediate ceasefire” as was agreed, with “the National Guard continuing to shell residential and industrial buildings in Donbas, killing innocent civilians," the rebels wrote in a letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

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Despite the ceasefire announced by the sides on September 5, gunfights and shelling occur in Donbass on a daily basis. On Thursday, Donetsk went under artillery fire again. This resulted in one person dying and four others receiving injuries, according to militias.

The provision that demanded the Ukrainian side to "immediate release all hostages and illegally detained persons" has not been executed either, the two self-proclaimed republics claimed.

The latest prisoner exchange was organized on Tuesday and saw seven government soldiers swapped for six self-defense troops. Previously, the militias blamed Kiev forces for bringing random people they picked up on the street to the exchanges, instead of actual militia members.

The warring sides agreed to a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and other peace measures during talks in Minsk, Belarus on September 5, but there is still a long way to go for the conflict to be settled. The Ukrainian parliament is still to vote on granting the Donetsk and Lugansk territories a special status.

“Article 1 of the legislation states that the list of regions to receive special status is to be approved by ‘a Verkhovna Rada decision.’ This decision hasn’t been made, so the law doesn’t work and is legally insignificant,” the self-proclaimed republics said.

Members of a local electoral commission prepare voting booths at a polling station in Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, October 30, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

The document on granting a special status for the Donetsk (DNR) and Lugansk (LNR) People's Republics was signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on October 16.

The law is to provide the LNR and DNR with legal grounds to elect its own governance. Polls are already scheduled to take place on Sunday.

Poroshenko has labeled the upcoming vote in the DNR and LNR as a “fake election,” which puts the peace process in jeopardy and will never be recognized by the international community. The EU and the UN have both slammed the election.

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However, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday fully backed the upcoming vole in Donetsk and Lugansk. The position of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, which want to hold the vote on November 2, is “legitimate and fully complies with the terms agreed in the Minsk deal,” the ministry said.

Ukraine has been engulfed in internal military conflict since April, when Kiev’s army began its crackdown on the southeast regions of the country after they refused to recognize the nation's new coup-imposed authorities.

The United Nations says the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict has exceeded 3,700 people, with over 9,000 others wounded. The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 842,000, with over half of them finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.