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Ukraine Cease-fire Shaky, Germany's Steinmeier Says

  • Reuters

FILE - A Russian member of the Joint Center on Control and Coordination of issues related to the cease-fire regime and the stabilization of the situation walks amid the debris of a house damaged by shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2015.

FILE - A Russian member of the Joint Center on Control and Coordination of issues related to the cease-fire regime and the stabilization of the situation walks amid the debris of a house damaged by shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2015.

The cease-fire in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists is becoming more fragile, Germany's foreign minister warned Tuesday.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned violations of the cease-fire that occurred over the Christmas holiday.

"I urgently call on all sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire in the interests of people in the conflict areas," he said in a statement.

Germany, with France, Russia and Ukraine, brokered the cease-fire at talks in Minsk, Belarus, in February as the basis for a possible lasting settlement of the crisis.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which erupted in April 2014 after a Moscow-backed president fled power in the face of street protests in Kyiv.

Steinmeier pointed to progress in military de-escalation and the withdrawal of weapons by the two sides, but said important questions still had to be resolved. These included agreeing on a special law for local elections in parts of the east controlled by separatists and improving the humanitarian situation.

"Even if the situation in eastern Ukraine has disappeared from the headlines, there is no reason to sit back. ... The cease-fire is increasingly fragile," he said.

He called on all sides to release prisoners and hostages, to lift limits on the registration of aid organizations in the east and to restore the water supply there.

"We must continue to work so that the local elections take place at the beginning of 2016 and the Minsk package of measures is completely implemented," he said.

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