Negotiators for Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reached an agreement on Wednesday for a full and comprehensive ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine from Monday, Ukraine‘s president’s office said.
A simmering conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014. Major combat ended with a ceasefire agreed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in 2015, but sporadic clashes still regularly kill civilians, Ukrainian soldiers, and separatists.
The breakthrough “is the result of the effective efforts of the Ukrainian delegation with the support of our international partners in Berlin and Paris,” President Volodymyr Zelensky’s press service said in a statement.
Both Ukraine and Russia agreed, under the mediation of the OSCE—an international organization of 57 countries from North America, Europe, and Asia for security and co-operation in Europe—to implement the ceasefire until “a full settlement of the international armed conflict” in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, the statement said.
Ukraine confirmed that it will fully comply with agreements reached at the Paris summit held in December between Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France and is committed to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the statement said.
The regime of a full and comprehensive ceasefire, if observed by the other party, was a precondition for the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Elections in the Eastern Ukrainian temporarily occupied territories are possible only after the withdrawal of foreign military forces, disarmament of illegal armed groups, and the regaining of control of the Ukrainian-Russian border by Ukraine, the statement said.
Elections must be held “in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine,” the statement specified.
Ukraine also expects further mutual prisoner releases and provided a list of persons for the release, expecting Russia to do the same, the statement said.
Zelensky has sought to resolve the conflict since his election last year, arranging a number of prisoner swaps. Ukraine and Russia have been foes since 2014 when Moscow seized Ukraine‘s Crimea peninsula and backed the rebellion in the east.
In 2014, Russian forces invaded the Crimea peninsula, and after that held a controversial local referendum in which “Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation,” according to the Council of Foreign Relations. The referendum was called illegal by the United Nations General Assembly. Russia, however, annexed the Crimea peninsula despite criticism.
Two months later, pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine commonly known as Donbas held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine. The referendum was “neither in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine nor with effect under international law,” according to the report (pdf) from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Minsk agreements consist of two ceasefire accords. The first one negotiated between Ukraine and Russia, and the two separatist regions, failed shortly after implementation. In 2015, the second ceasefire agreement was negotiated by the Normandy Format group consisting of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.
Participants of the Normandy Format Summit held in December adopted “the Steinmeier formula” which stipulates that “the elections to be held in the separatist-held territories under Ukrainian legislation and the supervision of the OSCE.” Both Russia and Ukraine are OSCE members.
Reuters contributed to this report.