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UN Council Calls For Return To Cease-Fire In Eastern Ukraine

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya (file photo)
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya (file photo)

The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the "continuous violations of the cease-fire" in eastern Ukraine and called for an immediate withdrawal of heavy weapons.

In a resolution sponsored by France and Germany on June 6, the council also called for expanded UN efforts to help civilians caught up in the four-year conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists.

The resolution, passed without dissent by the council's 15 members, including Russia, France, Germany, and the United States, expressed "grave concern about the recent deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine and its severe impact on the civilian population."

It was the council's first statement since January 2017 on the conflict, which has killed more than 10,300 people. It also calls on all parties to recommit to a peace agreement reached in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in 2015 but never carried out.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia are scheduled to meet in Berlin on June 11 to try to revive the Minsk peace process. The last attempt to carry out the cease-fire quickly fell apart in December.

"It's been a long time since the council adopted anything on Ukraine and we are very happy," Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said after the vote, calling the resolution's reaffirmation of the Minsk agreement "very constructive."

French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said Russia's vote for the resolution was "one of the reasons" why it was "important" and will make "a world of difference."

Delattre said the resolution represented the first time the council has adopted language addressing "the tragic humanitarian situation" and "suffering" of Ukraine's civilians.

He said the measure "sends a strong signal on putting into effect the Minsk agreements" ahead of the Berlin meeting. "This is key," he said.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the council last week that "the security situation on the ground remains volatile" in eastern Ukraine.

"The killing, destruction, and immense suffering continues" and "eastern Ukraine is facing a serious humanitarian crisis," she said. "The relative calm that held in the early weeks of 2018 was followed in April and May by a sharp increase in the number of victims."

Russia's Nebenzya claimed that "some parties" had been "sabotaging" the Minsk agreement by proposing a large-scale UN peacekeeping mission that he said was designed to substitute for the Minsk plan.

Russia has proposed only a narrowly limited role for UN peacekeepers, which Nebenzya claimed was in keeping with the Minsk agreement.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014 after mass protests ousted a pro-Russian government in Kyiv and Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

Kyiv and Western governments, which imposed sanctions on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, say Russia has fueled the conflict by providing weapons and forces to back the separatists in the east.

Russia denies being involved and charges that Ukraine refuses to comply with the Minsk agreement in part to deny Moscow relief from Western sanctions, which Western leaders have said will be lifted only when there is progress establishing peace.

The European Union in March extended its sanctions by another six months, but the coming to power of more pro-Russian governments in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and elsewhere has increased calls within the bloc for easing the sanctions.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Interfax
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