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article imagePutin backs armed OSCE mission to east Ukraine

By AFP     Oct 20, 2016 in Politics

President Vladimir Putin backs an armed OSCE mission to war-torn eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said Thursday, in spite of objections by pro-Moscow rebels.

"Putin agreed to the deployment of such a mission during the talks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to Wednesday's four-way talks on the conflict with the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine.

"There is an understanding on the positive nature of the deployment of such a mission, but it needs to be worked out in the framework of the OSCE."

The OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has 580 unarmed staff based in the conflict zone and has had its mandate extended to the end of March 2017.

Despite Putin's endorsement of armed OSCE observers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the process of ensuring local elections in the rebel-controlled areas needs to advance before an armed OSCE mission could be put in place.

Russia  which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014  backs a separatist  pro-Moscow insur...
Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, backs a separatist, pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives
Aleksey Filippov, AFP/File

The idea of arming that mission does not sit well with the separatists' self-proclaimed "people's republics" in the industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.

One of the Donetsk separatist leaders, Denis Pushilin, told AFP that his self-proclaimed republic was against the measure and that it had not been agreed upon in 2015 peace agreements known as the Minsk accords.

"The fact that we are against an armed OSCE mission is not only the personal position of the leadership of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic," Pushilin said.

"It has been confirmed at rallies with several thousand people that took place on our territories."

In June, more than 5,000 people took to the streets of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk to protest against the presence of OSCE monitors in the war-torn region, one of many rallies against the monitoring group.

Merkel said Thursday that "no miracles" were achieved on the Ukraine crisis during the talks but said they had led to some progress on ending a deadlock in the peace process.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said all sides had agreed to draw up a roadmap by the end of November for applying the frayed 2015 Minsk peace accords following months of impasse.

Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is backing the pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives since it erupted over two years ago.

Moscow has denied accusations that it has sent troops and weaponry across its border to fuel the conflict.

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