Munich, Moscow- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Saturday that a truce in eastern Crimea will start as of Monday. The agreement was reached after a meeting in Germany’s Munich in which each of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France participated.
“On Feb. 20 the ceasefire regime will start and withdrawal of heavy military hardware will also start … We have actively supported this decision and obviously expressed a conviction that this time, failure should not be allowed to take place,” Russian FM Lavrov said after talks with his Ukrainian, German and French counterparts in Munich.
Fighting has recently escalated between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the region, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.
The Minsk peace agreement brokered by France and Germany and signed by Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, calls for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.
“All parties will use their influence to implement the agreement of the trilateral contact group from Feb 15,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters, referring to a body comprising Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“The aim is to have a ceasefire starting from Feb. 20 and to do what has long been agreed but never implemented: To withdraw the heavy weapons from the region, to secure them and enable the OSCE monitors to control where they are kept.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s new administration has said that any sanctions imposed on Moscow following its annexation of Crimea and events in eastern Ukraine would not be lifted until there was progress on implementing the accords.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin confirmed the deal, warning that the ceasefire must turn into more than a “political slogan” in practical terms.
“This has to be the real situation — and if that’s not the case, we will have to have fresh negotiations,” he told Ukrainian reporters in Munich.
Despite their differences, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said neither Moscow nor Kiev had offered any alternatives to the Minsk process.
“The meeting showed that Russians and Ukrainians had no other option, but to respect Minsk. They have no alternatives. We agree to meet quickly, perhaps in three weeks, to see if we can advance on the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and exchange of prisoners. We need a lot of patience, because we can see a lack of will on either side.”