Kiev and rebel troops in eastern Ukraine on September 5 agreed a ceasefire, “all to all” prisoner of war exchange and humanitarian aid access to the area hit by months-long fierce fighting that has claimed the lives of over 2,500 people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has handed out the first tranche of humanitarian assistance in the amount of $170,000 to Ukraine, the country’s Ministry of Health reports.
The WHO aid is aimed at offering necessary medicine and medical devices to those who have suffered during the fighting in Donetsk and Lugansk regions. In addition, some aid will go to Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkov, the Zaporozhzhya region, and Kiev. The next tranche of aid from the WHO is expected to arrive on September 25.
In a telephone conversation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the situation in the east of Ukraine and praised the Minsk ceasefire agreement, the Kremlin said, adding that both sides “expressed readiness to fully support the consolidation of the peace process.”
Over 180,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status and permission for temporary asylum in Russia, Konstantin Romodanovsky, head of Russia's Federal Migration Service has said, adding that Russia is ready to accept all Ukrainians seeking refuge.
According to the official, 110,000 Ukrainian citizens have already received asylum in Russia, and from 5,000 to 9,000 people a day continue to flee Ukraine and arrive in Russia's Rostov region.
In accordance with the Minsk Memorandum, Ukrainian troops are preparing to retract heavy armaments 15km from their previous positions, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Andrey Lysenko, informed.
All artillery systems and armored vehicles with cannons 100mm caliber and larger will be moved away from the present positions. The self-defense militia of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions have reportedly started to do the same, but with less evident progress, because they have fewer heavy armaments than Ukrainian troops. After both militaries step back the agreed 15km, that would create a 30km security zone between the warring parties.
The ceasefire in southeastern Ukraine was a justified move, as it has already led to the release of 1,500 prisoners, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said.
“And today we have saved lives. I think there’ll be more than 1,500 people saved. People are still dying, but the number of casualties has decreased tenfold. There’s no alternative to peace,” the president explained.
During his appearance on Ukrainian TV, Poroshenko also stressed that a de-escalation of the conflict is taking place in Donbass.
The Ukrainian military has lost over half of its military hardware during the fighting in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said.
“I can tell you how much hardware we lost...from 60 to 65 percent of hardware has been destroyed,” Poroshenko said on Ukrainian TV.
The local militia of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Ukrainian army forces have exchanged 28 captives from both sides, ITAR-TASS reported.
A new round of prisoner exchange is scheduled for Sunday, a rebel source told RIA Novosti. “We expect to see 27 prisoners freed. It’s settled for 24 of them and we are in negotiations for about three others,” the source said.
Earlier on Saturday, Kiev and the militias exchanged 38 captives each.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has estimated infrastructure damage from Kiev's offensive in Donetsk and Lugansk to be around $440 million, Itar-Tass reported. “At least 1,969 objects have been damaged during the conflict, including 659 public buildings, 1,230 of private buildings as well as 178 homes and offices. Damage is estimated at $440 million,” the UNHCR report stated.
According to the UN, the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to foreign states – including Russia – to avoid the fighting is on the decrease.
A UN source told RIA Novosti that as of September 18, the number of Ukrainian refugees abroad was estimated at 341,000.
Over 800,000 Ukrainians have crossed into Russia in recent months, but people have started returning to their homes following a ceasefire announced between the militia and Kiev.