Almost entire 'grey' zone in Donbas liberated by Ukraine without Minsk deal breach – adviser
Yuriy Biriukov, an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, says that almost the entire "grey" zone in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, has been liberated from Russian-led forces without breaching the Minsk peace agreements and is under control of the Ukrainian army.
"Since that moment we started in May 2014, two-thirds of the territory [in Donbas] have been liberated. Almost the entire 'grey' zone has been liberated and brought under control," Biriukov said on Ukraine's Pryamiy TV.
On occasion, the Ukrainian military in Donbas were forced to conduct operations to retake certain areas not to let Russian-led terrorists mount attacks on Ukrainian positions. At the same time, as reported by the headquarters of the Ukrainian Joint Forces, the Ukrainian military have not violated the Minsk agreements.
Events in Donbas are considered to be the most dangerous conflict to grip Europe since the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
The Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), conducted by Ukrainian forces against Russian-led forces in Donbas since April 2014, was converted into a Joint Forces Operation late in April 2018.
As of the beginning of November 2018, over 3 million people left the war zone, where more than 10,000 people died, including 450 civilians who died in the last 14 months. The Ukrainian army's losses, which reach 7,000 people, were greater than those of U.S. troops during the entire period of the war in Afghanistan.
The so-called Minsk agreements on Donbas include the Minsk Protocol (later known as Minsk 1) with the Minsk Memorandum of September 2014 and the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements (Minsk 2) of February 2015. There are only two parties to the agreements, Ukraine and Russia, although the latter does not consider itself to be a party to the conflict. Names of representatives of the two Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics – the "Donetsk People's Republic" and the "Luhansk People's Republic" – are also under the agreements but their positions are not mentioned. France, Germany, and the OSCE oversee the peace talks.
In keeping with the Minsk deal, both sides should observe a ceasefire, pull back troops and withdraw military equipment. Ukraine should pardon the "participants of the conflict," conduct local elections, and recognize a de-facto autonomy of the region in the Constitution. Russia should return its equipment and fighters to Russia, ensure the local military formations lay down arms, give Ukraine control over its border with Russia.
However, not a single provision of the Minsk deal has been implemented by 100% as of today.
What is more, on September 21, 2016, the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group committed in Minsk to an agreement on disengagement. The Framework Decision relating to disengagement of forces and hardware by Ukrainian armed forces and armed formations, starting in Petrivske, Zolote and Stanytsia Luhanska areas, was signed by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine, representatives of the Governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation to the Trilateral Contact Group, and initialed by representatives of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.