Donetsk, Jan 16 - DAN. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky must not forget about the phased disengagement of forces and hardware along the contact line, Donetsk People’s Republic representative to the Contact Group talks, DPR Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova said on Tuesday.

“It would be most productive for Mr Zelensky <...> to focus on the search for the opportunities for phased disengagement of forces and hardware along the whole contact line, which he ruled out after the meeting of the “Normandy Four” leaders,” Nikonorova said in a statement received by the Donetsk News Agency.

She believes that phased disengagement is a big step towards achieving peace in Donbass.

During the talks at the summit of the “Normandy Four” leaders (Russia, France, Germany, Ukraine) on December 9, 2019, Vladimir Zelensky declined to put the task of disengagement along the whole contact line in Donbass in the communique. He said that the disengagement was a “very distant objective,” but agreed to three more disengagement areas.

The framework agreement on disengagement of forces in Donbass was signed in late September 2016. The objective was to disengage the warring sides to avoid the risk of clashes and shelling. The document set three pilot security areas: Petrovskoye in the DPR and Stanitsa Luganskaya and Zolotoye in the Lugansk People’s Republic.

The parties did not rule out disengagement along the entire contact line in the future. In Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, the conflicting parties’ units were disengaged back in October 2016. Meanwhile, the DPR and LPR repeatedly reported unstable situation in these areas where Ukrainian troops were spotted again.  In Petrovskoye, the disengagement began as recently as November 2019. In December, Kiev requested one more month for eliminating the violations. Up to date, Ukraine has not made any official statements on completing the disengagement works.*jk