The approach of the New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas holidays must serve as an opportunity for the stakeholders in the conflict in eastern Ukraine to focus of the needs of the civilian populations that have suffered all too long as a result of this conflict and its consequences.

We therefore welcome the statement by the Trilateral Contact Group on December 27 expressing the commitment to a solid, full and permanent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. The guarantee of a safe and secure environment should enable the implementation of crucial humanitarian measures. We now call on the parties to assume their full responsibilities, especially with regard to civilians in the area. We ourselves will continue to work toward the implementation of all points included in the Minsk agreements.

The human rights situation in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia, Russia’s use of military force in the Kerch Strait, and excessive inspections in the Azov Sea are also sources of deep concern. We call for all ships using the Kerch Strait to be given safe, free, and unhindered passage, and for the immediate and unconditional release of the Ukrainian sailors. They too must be allowed to spend the holidays with their families.