Russia, OSCE hail troop separation in eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW

Opposing forces in eastern Ukraine, wracked by conflict with separatists, have “successfully begun” separation, according to Russia’s foreign minister and the leader of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OSCE).

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow after meeting with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, Thomas Greminger, the OSCE’s secretary general, said there was some progress in Ukrainian settlement.

“I would like to notice the successful beginning of the forces separation. It happens, we have been waiting for this step for three years, and now we witness it, it brings hope. We see the progress, and although it is challenging, it can be reached,” he said.

Lavrov, for his part, stressed that hopes for a settlement in eastern Ukraine changed after Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president this May.

Separation was completed in a village earlier agreed to by the Trilateral Contact Group made up of the OSCE, Ukraine, and Russia, and now is taking place at the two other points.

“We hope that President Zelensky as a supreme commander-in-chief will ensure the implementation of his orders,” Lavrov said, adding that the ultimate goal is to separate the warring sides along the contact line.

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine was formed in Minsk in 2015 to facilitate a settlement in conflict-wracked Donbass, eastern Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum.

Both the UN General Assembly and Turkey view the annexation as illegal.

Ukraine has also blamed the Kremlin for separatist violence in eastern Ukraine near the border with Russia. Some 13,000 people have been killed, a quarter of them civilians, and as many as 30,000 wounded in that conflict, the UN said earlier this year.
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