Germany Strengthens Efforts To Secure Ceasefire In Eastern Ukraine

BERLIN, Germany -- Under an "all for all" principle, the German chancellor has called on warring parties to make progress on prisoner exchanges. Amid increased violations, a full ceasefire has remained an elusive feature of the conflict.

Every evening, the shelling begins around sunset. The front lines near Donetsk see nightly mortar and machine gun fire as the conflict between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists’ rages on. Caught in the crossfire are many elderly civilians who are too impoverished to go elsewhere. Ivan Polansky, above, surveys the damage on his home in Zhovanka.

The German government on Tuesday announced fresh efforts to bolster a ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces has left more than 10,000 people dead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and French President Francois Hollande on Monday night.

She urged all parties in the so-called Normandy contact group to "comply" with the peace deal known as Minsk II, said deputy government spokesman Ulrike Demmer.

Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany - dubbed the "Normandy Four" - agreed to increase efforts to implement the "security and political aspects" of the 2015 peace deal brokered by Berlin and Paris.

Under the Minsk II agreement, warring parties are to stick to a full ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline to establish a security zone and release all hostages on the basis of an "all for all" exchange.

The German government called on Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists to progress on the issue of exchanging prisoners of war, which is crucial for establishing trust for a political solution.

No end in sight 

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) special monitoring mission in Ukraine on Friday reported "more ceasefire violations" in the Donetsk region, noting that it had recorded "fewer explosions" compared to the previous observation period.

In the Luhansk region, the OSCE said it observed "fewer ceasefire violations."

Violence peaked in February with more than 10,000 ceasefire violations a day, prompting NATO officials to describe it as the conflict's "most violent" week in over a year.

In 2014, pro-Russia forces launched a rebel insurgency in eastern Ukraine in the wake of Moscow's military intervention and subsequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in an internationally condemned referendum.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and half a million children affected since the conflict erupted three years ago, according to UN figures.

Source: Deutsche Welle