Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday called on the trilateral contact group on Ukraine not to lose the tempo of its progress in talks designed to settle the situation in the country’s embattled regions.
“We would like this process of the contact group, a fragile process that is after all gaining momentum, not to lose its tempo,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart Erlan Abdyldayev.
The southeastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions have been the scene of fierce clashes between troops loyal to Kiev and local militias as the Ukrainian armed forces have been conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway territories, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums and now call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics.
Kiev's operation, conducted since mid-April, has employed armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in it. Many buildings have been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s war-torn southeast.
The top Russian diplomat recalled Moscow suggested a plan containing seven points for peace settlement of the situation in Ukraine.
“We are ready to explain in detail the content of the points,” Lavrov said. “But the key thing is: we want to hear reaction to the proposal on the part of the main conflicting sides - Kiev and Ukraine’s southeast.”
“We are certainly ready to hear some additional proposals from participants of the contact group in the hope that we will eventually be able to formulate a certain common position,” the foreign minister said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the seven-item plan to settle the crisis in Ukraine after a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Pyotr Poroshenko on Wednesday.
Lavrov told Itar-Tass on Thursday that Moscow wants the Russia - Ukraine - European Union contact group’s meeting, due September 5, to be fruitful and hopes other participants will pursue the same goals.
“As the first step, we will insist on cessation of fire. This is the most important thing now,” he stressed. “It’s enough. The civilian population has suffered for too long and in an unacceptable manner and keeps suffering.”
“All responsible politicians, all those who lead armed people in Kiev and in the southeast of Ukraine should realize their responsibility before the long-suffering people, stop the war and then start talks on resolution of all other issues, including those mentioned in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address,” the diplomat said.
“These are monitoring of ceasefire, adoption of measures to secure that heavy artillery will not be used against the civilian population and that aviation will not be used against cities and inhabited localities and civilians,” he continued.
“These are also issues connected with the necessity to urgently address humanitarian needs of civilians, start restoring infrastructure to organize life support of war-destroyed cities and districts at least to a certain extent by winter,” Lavrov said.
Putin’s settlement plan
Putin’s plan to settle the crisis in Ukraine has been posted on the Kremlin’s website. It reads:
“In order to stop the bloodshed and stabilize the situation in southeast Ukraine, I believe that the parties to the conflict should immediately agree on and coordinate the following steps:
1. End active offensive operations by armed forces and armed militia groups in southeast Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas.
2. Withdraw Ukrainian armed forces units to a distance that would make it impossible to fire on populated areas using artillery and all types of multiple launch rocket systems.
3. Allow for full and objective international monitoring of compliance with the ceasefire and monitoring of the situation in the safe zone created by the ceasefire.
4. Exclude all use of military aircraft against civilians and populated areas in the conflict zone.
5. Organize the exchange of individuals detained by force on an ‘all for all’ basis without any preconditions.
6. Open humanitarian corridors for refugees and for delivering humanitarian cargoes to towns and populated areas in Donbass - Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
7. Make it possible for repair brigades to come to damaged settlements in the Donbass region in order to repair and rebuild social facilities and life-supporting infrastructure and help the region to prepare for the winter.”
MOSCOW, September 4 (Itar-Tass)