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VIENNA, March 11. /TASS/. Russia's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Wednesday a buffer zone in eastern Ukraine separating the warring sides will be divided into six segments, to be patrolled by OSCE monitors.
"There are plans for dividing the 50 kilometer-wide buffer zone into six segments," envoy Andrey Kelin told TASS, noting that each segment would cover areas outlined in the 13-point plan agreed in Minsk, Belarus, last month.
"The sectors will be patrolled by OSCE monitors in zigzags. That way it is easier to collect information and make reports. The [OSCE] mission sends from 28 to 34 patrols every day. Almost 350 observers are involved," Kelin said, adding that drones would now help monitor the process.
"It is more important at the moment that the observers have free access to locations where heavy weapons are being stored and to the buffer zone," Kelin said. "There is access and cooperation on both sides, but in different proportions," he said, noting that the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics provided much better access to their territories than the Ukrainian government forces.
According to the OSCE mission, the Ukrainian military still have a significant amount of heavy weapons, including artillery, tanks, self-propelled artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers, some 20 kilometers north of the town of Artyomovsk in the Donetsk region, Kelin said.
"All this hardware is still to be pulled back," he said, adding that no "intensive" deployment of military equipment had been seen in the area for now.
The deal struck on February 12 in Minsk by the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia envisaged a pull-back of heavy weapons from the front line by at least 15 kilometres, the release of prisoners and an agreement for international observers to monitor the truce.
The withdrawal was due to start no later than the second day after the truce came into effect and be completed within two weeks, eventually creating buffer zones at least 50 kilometers wide for artillery weapons having calibres of 100mm and more, 70 kilometers wide for multiple rocket launchers, and 140 kilometers wide for longer range rockets.