- Military reports almost no separatist shelling since midnight
- OSCE urges Ukriane, insurgents to establish full cease-fire
Fighting abated in eastern Ukraine as the warring factions made a fresh attempt at a cease-fire in a conflict that broke out more than two years ago.
Between midnight and 9 a.m. Thursday in the capital, Kiev, there had been almost no shelling by the Russian-backed separatists the army has been battling, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said in televised comments. Rebel spokesman Eduard Basurin confirmed there had been no violations, according to the separatist DAN news service.
The conflict in Ukraine’s easternmost regions remains unresolved, with the death toll nearing 10,000 and a peace accord brokered with help from Germany and France falling apart. With violence having worsened in recent months, a truce was agreed last week at talks between Ukraine, Russia, the separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A similar 2015 cease-fire agreed to coincide with the new school year held for less than a week.
“This truce must be the beginning of a sustainable cease-fire,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said Thursday in a joint statement. Germany and France are “extremely concerned” over the security situation in eastern Ukraine, they said, reaffirming their commitment to the peace process.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated that security improvements in the conflict zone are necessary before other parts of the 2015 peace agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, can be implemented. Sticking points remain over elections in the rebel-held lands and the return of control of the Ukraine-Russia border.
“We urge all sides to heed the call and to establish a full and comprehensive cease-fire,” Ertugrul Apakan, chief monitor for the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, said in an e-mailed statement. “Such adherence can ultimately lead to the stabilization and normalization that the people of Donbas –- and in particular, the children –- so desperately need.”