Rebels Withdraw Heavy Arms in Eastern Ukraine
by VOA News February 28, 2015
Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine continued withdrawing tanks and other military vehicles Saturday from the front lines, obeying a cease-fire reached in mid-February.
Ukraine said there was a decrease in violence Friday night into Saturday.
Ukraine's military reported its first deaths in three days earlier on Friday. A Ukrainian military spokesman said three government soldiers were killed and seven wounded in clashes with separatists in the east.
President Petro Poroshenko blamed the rebels, saying they are still violating the cease-fire deal.
At a military cadet graduation ceremony, Poroshenko said his military is ready to return its heavy weapons to the front lines in eastern Ukraine if unrest continues. He said Ukraine's army 'is ready at any moment to stand up to the enemy.'
In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, Poroshenko also voiced support for a European Union peacekeeping mission in Ukraine.
He also said a military threat from the east - an apparent reference to Russia - will remain even if the truce holds.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday there has been progress in the withdrawal of heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine. He stressed the importance of fulfilling other aspects of the truce, including key humanitarian issues and constitutional reform in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
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