KYIV (Reuters) – More steps are needed to protect a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as violations are rising, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Reuters during a trip to the region on Wednesday.
Linde was on her first visit to Ukraine since taking over as the rotating head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the conflict in the Donbass region between Ukraine and Russian-backed forces.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was elected in 2019 on a pledge to end the conflict, which has killed 14,000 people since 2014 and poisoned relations between Kyiv and Moscow.
Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in July last year, though there are still military and civilian casualties. A Ukrainian soldier was killed during shelling last week.
“There has been a significant reduction in ceasefire violations since the 27th of July when the ceasefire was agreed upon,” Linde said by phone.
“The next step is to try to see if we can find more steps of keeping the ceasefire. Right now it’s a little bit fragile,” she added. “The incidents are going up.”
Linde said work should continue in the so-called ‘Normandy’ format of talks, between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. She met Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba this week.
Ukraine suggested in November that the OSCE send 1,500 police to Donbass as a precursor to being able to hold elections in the region. Asked whether the proposal was discussed this week, Linde said:
“There are several proposals on the table, and we are taking all of them seriously, and hopefully some can go forward.”
After Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014, pro-Russian separatists rose up across a belt of eastern Ukraine. Kyiv blames Moscow for engineering the uprising, and providing troops and arms that led to its escalation into a full-blown war. Moscow denies the accusation.
(Editing by Peter Graff)