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MOSCOW, February 2. /TASS/. Work is beginning on Sunday for the Kiev military and self-defense fighters of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) to pull out heavy weaponry from the engagement line, DPR Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said by phone on Sunday.
"The pullout was expected to start three days ago but nuances were determined and now all the sides have agreed and decided that February 22 will mark a two-week countdown for the weaponry withdrawal," he said, adding the Kiev military had also agreed to start the heavy weaponry pullout from Sunday.
The weaponry withdrawal will last about two weeks "as was prescribed in the Minsk accords," the spokesman said.
"Preparatory works are under way. Tomorrow will be a holiday and the process of weaponry pullout will really start from February 24," he said.
Representatives of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire and Situation Stabilization earlier said that DPR and LPR heads Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky had signed a plan of the heavy weaponry pullout from the engagement line.
The Center also reported that the DPR and LPR had initiated the weaponry pullout already on February 18.
Under a package of measures signed by the Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis settlement on February 12 for the implementation of the Minsk accords, the Ukrainian army will withdraw weaponry from the actual engagement line while DPR and LPR militias will pull out weapons from the line defined by the Minsk memorandum.
On February 12, Normandy format negotiations were held in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, bringing together Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The talks lasted for a total of 16 hours.
Simultaneously, a meeting of the Contact Group on the Ukrainian conflict settlement was held in Minsk, bringing together former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Kiev’s special representative for humanitarian issues Viktor Medvedchuk, both representing the Ukrainian side, alongside the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) special envoy to Ukraine, Heidi Tagliavini, and Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov.
As a result, a package of measures on implementing the Minsk accords was adopted, including an agreement on a ceasefire in separate areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions starting from February 15, heavy weaponry withdrawal and long-term political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
The ceasefire regime in Donbas officially came into force from 01:00 am Moscow time (00:00 hours Kiev time) on February 15.
Donbas swaps prisoners of war with Kiev
On February 21, the DPR and LPR exchanged 139 captured Ukrainian troops for 52 self-defense fighters while another Ukrainian serviceman preferred to stay in Donetsk.
The latest swap was held under the "all for all" formula. The Luhansk People’s Republic exchanged 103 Ukrainian servicemen for 16 self-defense fighters.
The DPR intended to swap 37 Ukrainian troops for 36 militias but the exchange was finally held under the formula of "36 for 36" after one Ukrainian servicemen preferred to stay in Donetsk.