Speaking from a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Minister for Europe David Lidington said:
On the first anniversary of the Minsk Protocol, it is as important as ever that both sides implement a lasting ceasefire. Throughout the last year we have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire and repeated obstruction of the work of the OSCE monitoring mission. The withdrawal of heavy weapons that has been agreed must actually take place, and the OSCE monitors must be given full and secure access to carry out their crucial role. Russia must stop providing arms and equipment to separatist forces and must withdraw its own forces from eastern Ukraine. Without such steps, the appalling suffering of ordinary Ukrainians living in the Donbas will continue.
The Minsk agreements are not just a ceasefire. They are designed to allow Ukraine to regain control of its territory and border. They provide the path to a political resolution of the current crisis. I welcome the progress that Ukraine has made in recent weeks to take forward challenging and vital constitutional reform, including decentralisation. I hope that soon we will see local elections in the separatist-controlled areas of the Donbas. These must be held in line with Ukrainian legislation and in line with OSCE standards and with OSCE/ODIHR observation, as set out in the Minsk agreement. Any elections that do not meet these standards will be illegitimate, and likely to cause further instability.
The weeks ahead will be testing. I welcome the political commitment shown by the Government of Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement. It is important that MPs and wider Ukrainian society continue to debate these and other critically important issues for Ukraine’s future openly, honestly and peacefully. There must be no repeat of the deplorable violence outside the Rada on 31 August. I urge all sides to engage constructively in the Trilateral Contact Group to ensure progress on the ground.