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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Ukraine deal with pro-Russian rebels at Minsk talks

20 Sep BBC

Ukraine's government and pro-Russia rebels have agreed a memorandum on a peace plan for the eastern conflict.

The deal includes setting up a 30km (19-mile) buffer zone, a ban on overflights of part of eastern Ukraine by military aircraft and the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries” on both sides. The agreement was announced at talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where a ceasefire was agreed two weeks ago.More than 3,000 have died in fighting in two eastern regions since April.The original ceasefire agreed on 5 September has been frequently violated but is still holding.

Ukraine accuses Russia of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine with weapons and military personnel, but Russia denies it has any role there.The deal was reached after late-night talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, eastern separatists and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).Correspondents say it is an effort to add substance to the fragile ceasefire deal.Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at the talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons.

“Heavy artillery will be moved 15km away from the front line” he said.He added that the deal would be implemented within 24 hours and monitors from the OSCE would travel to the buffer zone to check for compliance.Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that the two sides did not discuss the status of the rebel-held areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.

“We have our opinion on it while Ukraine has its own,” he said.Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, representing Moscow at the talks, said that “mercenaries” were fighting on both sides, and called on OSCE to oversee their removal.Russia has repeatedly said that any of its citizens fighting alongside separatists in Ukraine are doing so in a private capacity.But Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of actively sending troops and heavy weapons into Ukraine.

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