Ukraine's President Says He 'Supports' Immediate Ceasefire in Donbass
13:28 GMT 20.02.2022 (Updated: 15:11 GMT 20.02.2022)
© AP Photo / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks with US President Joe Biden over the telephone in his office in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, 9 December 2021.
© AP Photo / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
The announcement comes after days of escalating military activity, including intense artillery and mortar shelling of territory along the contact line. On Friday, leaders of the Donbass breakaways began an emergency evacuation of their civilian population to Russia and mobilised reserves amid fears of an imminent full-on Ukrainian invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed "support" for an "immediate" ceasefire in the Donbass.
"Continuing yesterday's conversation, [I've] informed [French President] @EmmanuelMacron about the current security situation and new provocative shelling. We stand for intensifying the peace process. We support the immediate convening of the TCG [Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine] and the immediate introduction of a regime of silence," Zelensky tweeted.
Continuing yesterday's conversation, informed @EmmanuelMacron about the current security situation and new provocative shelling. We stand for intensifying the peace process. We support the immediate convening of the TCG and the immediate introduction of a regime of silence.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 20, 2022
Zelensky and Macron spoke by telephone for about half an hour on Sunday, according to French media. No details about the conversation have been publicised. The call followed Macron's telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day, which is said to have lasted 105 minutes. The Elysee Palace characterised those discussions as "the final possible and necessary efforts to avoid a major conflict in Ukraine."
On Saturday, Zelensky spoke at the Munich Security Conference, where he called on the West to stop its "policy of appeasement" toward Russia, and demanded Western preemptive sanctions against Moscow, citing an "invasion" threat that he previously downplayed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed "alarm" over the deteriorating security situation in the Donbass on Friday amid reports by local militia that they were being shelled and sniped by Ukrainian forces. President Putin called on Kiev to "sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic, and humanitarian measures to end this conflict."
"The sooner this happens, the better," Putin said.
20 February 2022, 05:11 GMT
Russia, France and Germany serve as guarantors to the Minsk Agreements - a comprehensive package of measures signed in February 2015 by Ukraine and the three countries aimed at putting an end to the civil war in the Donbass. The Minsk deal proved successful in turning a full-blown war into a frozen conflict and led to heavy weapons being pulled back while Organisation for Security Co-Operation in Europe monitors were put in place to prevent an escalation.
However, the Minsk deal's political portion, which called on Kiev to introduce constitutional reforms to grant the Donbass breakaways broad autonomy, has not seen any progress, with Moscow consistently prodding Ukraine to move forward with the reforms. Shortly after his election in 2019, President Zelensky briefly flirted with making headway on the Minsk-mandated constitutional reforms. However, these efforts were halted after tens of thousands of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists took to the streets of Kiev and threatened to overthrow his government over its "capitulationist" plans.
20 February 2022, 12:15 GMT
On Sunday, Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin announced that Belarus and Russia would continue exercises of the response forces of the Russian-Belarusian Union State amid heightened NATO activity "and the aggravation of the situation in the Donbass."