Russian probing in eastern Ukraine must stop, say security and defence MEPs 

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The worsening security situation in eastern Ukraine, where heavy fighting with pro-Russian rebels recently broke out in the government-controlled town of Avdiivka, were debated by Security and Defence Subcommittee MEPs on Monday with Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. MEPs urged Russia to stop testing the West’s reactions and to go on implementing the Minsk agreements.

“The ceasefire continues to be violated by Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine,” said Ms. Klympush-Tsintsadze, noting that a new escalation of violence by pro-Russian rebels against the Ukrainian controlled city of Avdiivka had resulted in the deaths of 15 Ukrainian solders and three civilians, with many more injured. She pointed out that Russian-backed militants had used tanks and heavy weapons, such as Grad multiple rocket launchers, which are prohibited by the Minsk agreements.

Avdiivka is on the verge of humanitarian crisis, as the fighting had resulted in electricity and heating supply cuts, and repairs had been hampered by pro-Russian rebels until Sunday, she added.

She also listed some further actions to de-escalate the conflict - maintaining a durable ceasefire, withdrawing Russian troops from eastern Ukraine and ensuring that the OSCE could effectively monitor the 409 km Ukraine/Russian border, which currently is out of Ukrainian control, so as to halt the flow of ammunition, troops and mercenaries into eastern Ukraine.

Security and defence MEPs were very concerned about the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine. A majority were convinced that Russia is “testing the ground” against the backdrop of new US administration and called on Russia to implement the Minsk agreements. MEPs also reiterated that EU sanctions are linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and should therefore be maintained.

Some MEPs called on the EU to be more proactive and to start discussing the possibility of deploying an EU Common Security and Defence Policy mission as well as delivering on its promises to grant Ukrainian citizens visa-free access without further delays, since Ukraine has met all of 144 visa liberalisation benchmarks.

A majority of Security and Defence Committee MEPs also backed a call to debate the situation in eastern Ukraine at Parliament’s next plenary session in Strasbourg and to vote a resolution.

You can watch the recording of the debate via Video on Demande (06.02.2016)