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Contact group on Donbas agrees release of 50 prisoners

A cease-fire must start immediately.

Contact group on Donbas agrees release of 50 prisoners
Minsk venue

The trilateral contact group on a Donbas settlement has finished its meeting in Belarus's Minsk.

Darya Olifer, the press secretary of Ukraine's representative in the group, ex-President Leonid Kuchma, has shared the details of the meeting on Facebook.

In her words, the full and unconditional cease-fire in Donbas remains the most important condition to restoring peace in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. However, the Ukrainian side noted that the cease-fire during the Christmas and New Year holidays had not become a reality.

"Without a cease-fire, it is impossible to clear mines or adequately resolve political, humanitarian and economic problems. That is why Ukraine supports the initiative of Russian representative Boris Gryzlov to announce a cease-fire, effective immediately," Olifer said.

According to her, special attention was paid to the release of Ukrainian citizens from captivity.

"On Ukraine's initiative, all the parties reached consent that both sides should release over 50 people each, first of all, wounded, heavily ill and women," she said.

They also agreed that international humanitarian organizations, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), must be allowed to see the prisoners held in remand centres in the areas of Donbas beyond Ukraine's control. The ICRC must also be given access to Ukrainian citizens illegally held by militants.

"The representatives of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions repeatedly made this promise but have not delivered on it yet," Olifer said.

The political subgroup continues looking for ways to enable local elections in parts of Donbas uncontrolled by Ukraine and insists that they should be held in accordance with the Ukrainian law, OSCE standards and with the participation of Ukrainian parties and mass media.

Some specific results were reported to have been achieved by the economic subgroup. The reconstruction of the Donbas railway and power supply infrastructure continues. It has also managed to find a mechanism how the debts for water supply can be paid up to Ukrainian companies in some areas of Luhansk Region.

"It is important to say that this mechanism is in line with the Ukrainian law and there is a guarantee from the Russian side that it will pay the debt off," Olifer said.

Earlier, President Petro Poroshenko discussed plans for local elections in Donbas with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

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