Pro-Russians say withdrawing heavy weaponry from Donetsk
Iran Press TV
Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:27AM
Pro-Russian forces in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) have begun a full-scale withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the frontlines, officials say.
Eduard Basurin, the Defense Ministry spokesman of the restive region, said Tuesday that pro-Russian forces began at 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) to pull out some 96 pieces of D-30 artillery weapons from the cities of Donetsk, Grolovka, Telmanovo and the flashpoint railway hub of Debaltseve.
Meanwhile, the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) deputy Commander Vitaly Kiselev added that rocket artillery would also be withdrawn from Debaltseve, located on the border to LPR from 12:00 local time (10:00 GMT).
This is while the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the Kiev army will not withdraw heavy weapons along the frontline in the conflict-stricken east as long as what it calls a full ceasefire with pro-Russia forces has not come into force.
The pullout by pro-Russians is the latest of a number of weaponry withdrawals that began on February 18 as part of a new truce reached between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops earlier this month.
The completion of the process for the removal of heavy arms is set for March 7, according to the terms of the truce between the two sides.
On February 12, leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed on a peace deal in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, with measures such as a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy arms, as well as constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of the year.
Back in September 2014, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk signed another ceasefire deal in the same city. However, the truce was violated on an almost daily basis by both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia forces and thus failed to bear any practical result.
Donetsk and Luhansk have been hit by deadly clashes since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia protests there.
In May 2014, the situation in the two flashpoint cities started to worsen as residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Ukraine in referendums.
Over 5,700 people have been killed so far and some 14,000 others wounded in the conflict, the United Nations says. Around 1.5 million others have also been forced from their homes over the past months of turmoil.
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