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Ukraine’s General Staff confirms weapons withdrawal in Donbass due Monday

October 04, 2015, 18:06 UTC+3 KIEV
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KIEV, October 4. /TASS/. Kiev has confirmed it is ready to begin on Monday withdrawal of weapons of calibre under 100mm from the engagement line in Donbass, speaker of the General Staff Vladislav Seleznev said on Sunday.

"We are putting together and discuss the lists of weapons to be withdrawn to the distances as per the Minsk accords, so that to begin the physical relocation tomorrow [on Monday, October 5]," he said. "The process of discussions continues. We are working closely with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and plan the process will be over by end of the week."

"We begin withdrawing tanks, and then as within a fortnight they are relocated, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission will confirm the equipment at certain locations," the speaker said, adding the process of withdrawing should "be simultaneous, both in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian forces and in the territory, controlled by the militia."

He said the withdrawal should begin from the Luhansk region.

"It will last for 15 days, and as the process in the Luhansk region is over, the withdrawal will begin from the territory in the Donetsk region, which will continue for 20 days," he said, adding thus from October 18 the synchronised withdrawal of weapons should begin in the Donetsk region.

"The process will be divided into stages," he said. "Frist of all, tanks will be pulled back, then - the artillery of calibre under 100mm, and at the third stage - mortars of calibre under 120mm."

On Tuesday, September 29, the Trilateral Contact Group initialled a document envisaging withdrawal of weapons under 100mm calibre to a distance of 15 kilometres for the line of engagement. The first stage would begin in two days, OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Special Representative in Ukraine Martin Sajdik said, adding that first tanks would be pulled back, then artillery and then mortars. The first stage of 15 days will be followed by a 24-day second stage.

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine comprising senior representatives from Russia, Ukraine and the European security watchdog OSCE on February 12, 2015, signed a 13-point Package of Measures to fulfil the September 2014 Minsk agreements. The package was agreed with the leaders of the Normandy Four, namely Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine.

The Package of Measures, known as Minsk-2, envisaged a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and people’s militias in the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk starting from February 15 and subsequent withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of engagement. The deal also laid out a roadmap for a lasting settlement in Ukraine, including local elections and constitutional reform to give more autonomy to the war-torn eastern regions.

On July 18, the Donetsk and Luhansk republics announced their plans to unilaterally withdraw tanks and armoured vehicles with a calibre of less than 100mm to a distance of at least three kilometres away from the line of military engagement.

The Donetsk republic said at the end of July it had pulled back weapons under 100mm calibre from the contact line, leaving tanks only in "hot spots" to the north of Donetsk and in Debaltsevo. The Luhansk republic said it had also completed the withdrawal of weapons from the contact line, leaving tanks and armoured vehicles only on positions near the Schastye settlement.

The republics’ self-defence forces also expressed their readiness to pull back weapons from "hot spots" if Kiev took a similar action.

On Friday, October 2, leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine held talks in Paris in the so-called Normandy format. According to Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the talks were "intense and business-like."

He said the leaders discussed implementation of the Minsk Agreements, including withdrawal of armaments, elections, amnesty, gas issues and other crises, including air services. The Kremlin spokesman confirmed the sides held constructive talks and confirmed that the Minsk deals have no alternative.

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