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Russian, Ukrainian presidents discuss Donbass by phone
From:Xinhua  |  2019-08-07 21:31

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MOSCOW, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky discussed by phone the situation in the Donbass region in southeast Ukraine, the Kremlin said Wednesday in a statement.

The parties emphasized the importance of strict observance of the truce established on July 21, as well as the separation of forces and assets along the demarcation line, the statement said.

Putin said that in order to de-escalate the conflict, it is critical to exclude further shelling by the Ukrainian troops of settlements in Donbass, which has led to civilian casualties.

He also reaffirmed in the conversation the importance of consistent implementation of the Minsk agreements, including the provisions on granting the region a special legal status.

"In this context, it was noted that the parties need to engage in constructive dialogue, including within the Minsk Contact Group," the statement said.

Putin and Zelensky agreed to intensify efforts to free the detainees held by Ukraine and the Donbass insurgents, according to the statement.

They also discussed future contacts in the Normandy format, which consists of Russian, Ukrainian, German and French leaders on the settlement of the Donbass conflict.

On Tuesday, Zelensky urged the leaders of the Normandy Four to hold talks on the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers killed during shelling earlier in the day, saying "the truce lasted 17 days. Today's incident aims to undermine not only this ceasefire but also the negotiation process as a whole."

This was Zelensky's second phone conversation with Putin since he took office on May 20. The leaders also discussed the Donbass conflict and detainee exchange in their previous call on July 11.

Since April 2014, an armed conflict between government troops and pro-independence insurgents has been underway in Donbass.

The Minsk agreements, reached in September 2014 and February 2015 respectively, are designed to peacefully end the conflict in Donbass, which envisage a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the demarcation line, a prisoner exchange and local elections, among other measures.

However, the deals were never fully implemented, with Kiev and Donbass accusing each other of violations.