E. Ukraine ceasefire finally ‘real’, both sides confirm
“I have good news,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, currently on a visit to Australia, told journalists on Friday. “Today, for the first time in seven months, there was a real 24-hour-long ceasefire.”
“You can’t imagine how important this is for us. This has become the first night when I don’t have a single soldier either killed or wounded”.
Poroshenko admitted, however, the truce has so far been “very fragile” and promised to “pray for the process to carry on.”
Heavy armor, artillery and Grad missile launchers haven’t been used by rebel forces during the past day, the speaker of the Ukrainian Security Council, Andrey Lysenko, confirmed on Friday.
“On the whole we can confirm gradual, mutual establishment of the “silence regime” in the areas where the anti-terror operation is taking place,” Lysenko said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
The leaders of the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk have also admitted the ceasefire was mostly observed.
The rebel fighters in Lugansk have withdrawn heavy weapons from the front line, as agreed with Kiev, says the local people’s council speaker, Aleksey Karyakin.
“The ceasefire seems to be observed on the whole, but local skirmishes do occur,” he said. “Only it’s not the heavy weaponry, but the small firearms that are being used. Fighting on a large-scale is not taking place.”
The situation is similar in Donetsk, according to the head of the people’s council there, Andrey Purgin.
“As far as I understand sporadic skirmishes are taking place, but not 120 a day, as it used to be,” Purgin said, as cited by the Donetsk news agency.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is optimistic about the current truce.
“There has emerged a chance for peace in Ukraine. With some pain, the ceasefire has finally been achieved,” Lavrov said on Friday.
“There’s good ground for moving forward in negotiating other issues, like economic reconstruction of the Donbass region, boosting political dialogue, which has to eventually lead to constitutional reform in Ukraine with the participation of all regions and all political forces, something the Ukrainian authorities had promised back in April.”
The latest and so far successful attempt at a ceasefire, brokered by the OSCE, was launched on December 9 and is supposed to pave the way for a new round of peace talks between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in the east. The date for the negotiations, that will take place in Minsk, Belarus, has not yet been agreed on.
Russia is, according to Lavrov, trying to get the date set as soon as possible.
A major roadmap to peace was already agreed upon in Minsk in September. Among other things, it stipulated Ukraine was to grant a special status for the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, and hold early elections there.
Since then both Kiev and the rebels have accused each other of violating the September Minsk agreement.
Kiev launched its military operation against the anti-government forces in April. 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict since that time, the UN recently estimated.