MOSCOW, March 13. /TASS/. Significant progress has been made by Ukraine’s security forces and peoples’ militias in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions in observing a ceasefire and withdrawing heavy weapons, Russia's envoy to the European security watchdog OSCE said on Friday, noting, however, that there were still complaints from both sides.
"The sides are waiting for confirmation from the OSCE special monitoring mission (SMM) that heavy weapons are actually withdrawn from the buffer zone to the required distances," envoy Andrey Kelin said at a meeting of the OSCE permanent council, adding: "Unfortunately, regular clashes are reported around Donetsk airport and in the southern part of the Donetsk region."
According to the mission’s reports and data from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-operation (JCCC) monitoring the ceasefire, Ukrainian forces still used artillery which was to be withdrawn in shelling militia positions.
"Donetsk airport is being shelled from 20 to 40 times every day," Kelin said, noting also shelling incidents near the village of Shirokino and the Pervomayskaya mine.
Parties to the Ukraine conflict were still mutually suspicious about each other's actual readiness to fulfil commitments made at peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, last month, the diplomat said. "Militias signal that security forces return their heavy weapons withdrawn earlier to positions near the contact line," he said, adding that SMM reports also confirmed this.
A ceasefire deal on Ukraine struck on February 12 in Minsk by leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France envisaged a pullout of heavy weapons from the front line by at least 15 kilometres (9 miles), prisoner release and agreement for international observers to monitor the truce.
Withdrawal was due to start no later than the second day after the truce came into effect and be completed within two weeks, creating buffer zones of at least 50 kilometres (30 miles) for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, 70 kilometres for multiple rocket launch systems and 140 kilometres for the heaviest rockets and missiles.