MOSCOW, February 28. /TASS/. A new stage of weaponry withdrawal has started in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), DPR defense ministry said on Saturday.
"Weaponry withdrawal is expected in three directions: Torez-Dmitrovka, Donetsk-Pervomaisk, Bezymyannoye-Samoylovo," the Donetsk News Agemcy quoted a defense ministry representative as saying.
Heavy weaponry withdrawal started at 9:30am Moscow time, he said. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will monitor the withdrawal.
Earlier, DPR defense ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said that self-defense forces had already withdrawn four Grad multiple rocket launcher systems. In general, twenty units of military equipment have been withdrawn, Basurin added.
France at this stage is satisfied with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, in particular, on ceasefire, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandre Giorgini said on February 27. "France satisfactorily notes that ceasefire in east Ukraine is in general observed by both sides," Giorgini said.
Paris also welcomed the latest prisoner swap as 138 Ukrainian soldiers and 52 self-defense militiamen were exchanged on February 21, the spokesman added.
"We approve the continuing process of heavy weaponry withdrawal which must be carried out in compliance with the package of measures adopted in Minsk on February 12," the diplomat said. "France also welcomes the participation of OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] mission and observers at the scene. We call upon all sides to ease the process of observing and monitoring the ceasefire and heavy weaponry withdrawal for OSCE and provide full access for observes on the whole territory," Giorgiani stressed.
France still insists on looking for a way of political settlement of the conflict in east of Ukraine, the diplomat said. "France confirms its adherence to fulfilling the measures adopted on February 12. Only complete fulfillment [of these agreements] will help achieve a peaceful and sustainable [conflict] settlement," the spokesman concluded.
On February 12, negotiations in the "Normandy format" were held in the Belarusian capital Minsk, bringing together Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The talks lasted for around 14 hours.
Simultaneously, a meeting of the Contact Group on Ukrainian 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 representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) special envoy to Ukraine, Heidi Tagliavini, and Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, who acts as a mediator.
As a result, a package of measures on implementing the Minsk agreements was adopted, including on ceasefire in separate areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions starting from February 15, heavy weaponry withdrawal and long-term political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.