Although the ceasefire between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces has largely held, none of the political elements — including a local election — has been implemented.

 

Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was hosting his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Moscow, told reporters that Kiev’s inaction is the main stumbling block to a peace settlement in the east.

 

He said Germany had floated an idea of holding an election in the rebel-occupied territories this summer, but Kiev had said ‘no’.

 

Fighting in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, which has close ties to Russia, has killed 9,100 people and left large swathes of land under rebel control.

 

Germany, France, and Russia have mediated talks between representatives of the government and separatists, in Minsk, Belarus, which resulted in a broad cease-fire agreement.

 

“Minsk-2 cannot be reviewed, and we should resist attempts to undermine it,” Mr Lavrov said.

 

Kiev insists it cannot hold a vote there, because it cannot guarantee security for election officials.

 

Rebels have said they will not allow Ukrainian right-wing parties to run, which the Ukrainian government says makes the election impossible.

 

Mr Steinmeier urged both sides to comply with the partial withdrawal and warned of a possible escalation.

 

Both Mr Steinmeier and Mr Lavrov appeared to be in a jovial mood, and Mr Steinmeier said they both pledged to “look for ways to overcome the differences that stand in our way, to find a solution.”

 

Irish Examiner