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Kiev promises weapons pullback after militias withdraw tanks and armored vehicles

July 20, 2015, 17:17 UTC+3 KIEV
"If the truce holds for at least several days, we can talk about further implementation of all Minsk agreements [by Ukrainian side]," a Ukraine military spokesman in Kiev says
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© EPA/IRINA GORBASYOVA

KIEV, July 20. /TASS/. Reaching an agreement on bilateral withdrawal of weapons under 100mm calibre from the front line in east Ukraine’s Donbas region will depend on local militias’ actions, a Ukraine military spokesman in Kiev said on Monday.

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told the 112 Ukraine television news channel: "First of all, it is necessary that the terms of the Minsk deal with regard to complete ceasefire are fulfilled [by militias]. If the truce holds for at least several days, we can talk about further implementation of all Minsk agreements [by Ukrainian side]."

On July 18, the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) announced the start of withdrawing tanks and armoured vehicles with a calibre of less than 100mm to a distance of at least three kilometers away from the line of military engagement. The self-defence forces of the Donetsk republic have withdrawn more than 50% of tanks and armored vehicles. Their weaponry remains only to the north of Donetsk and in Debaltseve — the tensest parts of the front line. The Luhansk republic has withdrawn weaponry everywhere along the contact line, excluding the area near the Schastye settlement.

Withdrawing weapons under 100mm calibre has been discussed in Minsk, Belarus, for a long time, but the sides failed to come to an agreement. The two eastern republics decided to start the pullback unilaterally in the interests of establishing peace.

On Tuesday, envoys of Moscow, Kiev, the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will gather in the Belarusian capital to continue Contact Group meetings reviewing progress of the ceasefire. Discussions are expected to include four working subgroups. The sides hope to reach an agreement on bilateral withdrawal of weapons with a calibre of less than 100mm.

Minsk agreements

A February 12 peace deal struck in Minsk by leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and people’s militias starting from February 15.

This was to be followed by withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of military engagement by at least 15 kilometers (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, for completion within two weeks.

Buffer zones were to be established of at least 50 kilometers (30 miles) for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, 70 kilometers for multiple rocket launch systems and 140 kilometers for the heaviest rockets and missiles.

The self-proclaimed republics have completed the pullback of their heavy weapons by March. But in recent days, eastern territory has come under intense shelling from the positions of Ukrainian government forces using heavy artillery and multiple rocket launch systems.

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