Ukraine army, pro-Russians agree to withdraw heavy arms within days
Iran Press TV
Sun Feb 22, 2015 10:46AM
Ukraine's army and pro-Russia forces have agreed to pull back their heavy weapons from the frontline of the conflict in eastern regions in accordance with the Minsk ceasefire deal.
Ukrainian military officials said on Sunday that pro-Russians had signed the orders to withdraw heavy arms over the next two weeks.
"The papers have been signed to begin withdrawing heavy weapons all along the frontline," said General Olexander Rozmaznin of Ukraine's armed forces.
The pro-Russians also confirmed signing of the order.
Although some reports suggest that the withdrawal could start as soon as Sunday, Rozmaznin said it was too early to determine when the arms pullback would officially begin.
The Sunday agreement comes a day after 52 pro-Russia fighters and 139 Ukrainian servicemen held captive were released in a prisoner exchange deal near the remote frontline town of Zholobok.
Following the swap, a spokesman for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said another government soldier would be released within days.
The recent developments are seen as the first signs of cooperation between the two warring sides since the much-violated ceasefire agreement reached in the Belarusian capital, Minks, earlier in February.
Under the terms of the ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, the withdrawal of heavy weapons is expected to be completed by March 3.
The truce appeared shaky as deadly clashes reportedly continued in the strategic eastern city of Debaltseve, which connects the two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Donetsk and Luhansk have been convulsed by battles between pro-Russians and the Ukrainian army since April 2014, when Kiev launched a military operation to crush the fighters.
Some 5,700 people have been killed since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine and a further 1.5 million have been forced from their homes, the UN says.
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