DONETSK, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - A leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine called Kiev on Wednesday to continue talks within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.
"I believe that negotiations should be continued," Andrei Purgin, the first deputy prime minister of the DPR, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
"There will be no result without negotiations. If there is even the smallest thing that could bring us back to the negotiating table, the dialogue must continue," Purgin stressed.
Donetsk Republic's leader praised the September 5 talks in Minsk, Belarus, that allowed for the recent "mass" prisoner swaps between Kiev and Donetsk.
"They have not been running smoothly, but at least things are heating up now. We have already exchanged hundreds of people," Purgin told RIA Novosti.
He added however that Kiev has, for some reason, been underplaying the number of its soldiers, who are held captive in eastern Ukraine.
"The lists of hostages that the Ukrainian side has handed over to us are six times shorter than they really are. Their estimates are a hundred people whereas we actually have 600," Purgin noted.
"The way Ukrainian battalions are manned does not make any sense, and the OSCE knows it… They may have a hundred of troops on the battlefield, but if asked to disclose their numbers it turns out there are allegedly only 20-25. Who are the rest of these people and what they do is a mystery," the DPR deputy prime minister said.
On September 5, Kiev and East Ukrainian militias agreed to a ceasefire that came into force the same day, but numerous reports say that both sides have fired weapons since then.
The status of Ukraine's eastern regions remains a stumbling block to settlement of the country's crisis. Donetsk and Luhansk leaders have laid claim to the whole territory within the borders of the respective administrative entities in Ukraine.
Kiev, however, said on Tuesday it was ready to grant special status only to areas currently controlled by independence supporters. Militia leaders also said they wanted full independence and would not agree to any status that sees them as part of Ukraine.