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Kiev says heavy weapons to remain in place in east until militias move theirs first

September 24, 2014, 17:46 UTC+3 KIEV
Andrei Lysenko, spokesperson for the National Security and Defense Council, said the army would leave after militias but “there has been no move on their part so far”
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KIEV, September 24. /ITAR-TASS/. The Ukrainian army is not pulling out its large caliber weapons from positions in the east of the country, waiting for the militias to do so first, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Andrei Lysenko, spokesperson for the National Security and Defense Council, said the army would leave after militias but “there has been no move on their part so far”.

When asked when the government troops could start withdrawing their heavy weapons with a caliber of over 100 mm, Lysenko said, “We need to secure a ceasefire first”.

On Tuesday, militias began pulling back their weapons as required by the Minsk Memorandum. “We are complying with the terms of the agreement and withdrawing heavy artillery systems, unlike the Ukrainian side,” Vladimir Kononov, defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told ITAR-TASS.

Prior to that, Lysenko said the Ukrainian army was preparing to relocate heavy weapons beyond the 15-km security zone.

He said sites were being prepared for the weapons to be withdrawn as “they cannot be left out in the field. They must be ready for use at any moment”.

“The military remain in place,” he added.

On September 20, the Trilateral Contact Group of senior representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and representatives of certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions signed a memorandum outlining the parameters for the implementation of the cease-fire commitments laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5.

The document consists of nine provisions which include a line between the armed formations is established which serves as reference point for the withdrawal of military personnel and all types of arms, weapons and ammunition. Within an area of 15 kilometers on both sides of the line there shall be no military units or their weapons or ammunitions. Any offensive actions shall be prohibited. All foreign armed formations, military equipment as well as combatants and mercenaries shall be withdrawn from the Ukrainian territory. There was also agreement on the monitoring of the provisions of the memorandum by the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the OSCE which is already operating on the ground in Ukraine. Expressing his gratitude to OSCE participating States for the monitors put at the SMM’s disposal, he asked for their further support in terms of additional experts and financial resources.

Denis Pushilin, People’s Front coordinator in Novorossiya (a common name for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics), said the memorandum gave a real chance of de-escalation in eastern Ukraine.

“The absolute majority of political forces in the people’s republics consider the memorandum an important step towards peaceful coexistence with Ukraine,” he said.

At the previous meeting, the sides signed a 12-point protocol on peaceful settlement in the region, with a ceasefire and exchange of prisoners of war being its key provisions.

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