Minsk talks yield agreement on release of hostages by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine

Negotiators who met near Minsk on Thursday to discuss the ongoing Ukraine crisis reached an agreement on the release of a large number of hostages held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, said the press office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The Trilateral Contact Group, which included representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, held the meeting at the Zaslawye government residence. In attendance were former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, as well as Mikhail Zurabaw, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, and OSCE representative Heidi Tagliavini.

The OSCE press office said that representatives of pro-Russian separatists had also attended the talks.

"The Contact Group reiterated that the release of hostages and other illegally detained persons is an important element for securing a mutually agreed and sustainable cease-fire," said the press office.

The participants also called for the establishment of an "OSCE supported monitoring and verification mechanism to become effective simultaneously with the entry into force of the cease-fire" and "effective control and verification on the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation."

The negotiators also emphasized the importance of securing safe access by international experts to the site of the crash of the Malaysian Airlines, which was shot down by a missile in the Donetsk province in July.

The Contact Group agreed with the representatives of separatist groups that they will hold another meeting next week, said the press office.

Belarus had been asked to host the negotiations by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. // BelaPAN