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The humanitarian and security situations have deteriorated abruptly in eastern Ukraine, where we have seen the highest number of ceasefire violations since February 2017, the ensuing loss of life and the destruction of property. The positioning of armed forces in close proximity to residential areas and firing from or towards critical infrastructure shows complete disrespect for peoples' lives. Greater restraint and further efforts to protect water supplies and energy infrastructure is vital.
The ceasefire needs to be respected, military forces must disengage and withdraw heavy weapons to verifiable storage areas. We also reiterate that full, safe and unhindered access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and its technical equipment throughout the entire area foreseen by its mandate is essential.
It is crucial that the Minsk agreements are implemented by all sides. We expect Russia in particular to make full and immediate use of its influence on the separatists in this regard. The agreement reached in today's Trilateral Contact Group on a renewed ceasefire commitment for the holiday period is a necessary step, though immediate restraint in the meantime remains imperative.
Russia's withdrawal of its contingent from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) also has serious negative implications for the maintenance of a ceasefire and on the stabilisation of the line of contact. We expect both sides to take all necessary measures so that the JCCC can resume its critical role in resolving serious security issues on the ground.
The European Union continues to support the ongoing diplomatic efforts towards full implementation of the Minsk agreements as the basis for a sustainable political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine that respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.