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KIEV, October 8. /TASS/. A Ukrainian military spokesman on Thursday announced Kiev’s refusal to withdraw artillery from the eastern Luhansk region despite agreement last week to extend a pull-back of weapons in the country’s war-torn east.
Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff, demanded that an extraordinary meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis be convened, noting that: "Ukraine’s senior military-political leadership will take a decision on withdrawal of artillery in the Luhansk region after the Contact Group’s extraordinary session."
The Contact Group brings together senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and European security watchdog OSCE.
Ukrainian officials said the reason for calling the Contact Group’s extraordinary meeting was Wednesday’s shelling of the Troitskoye settlement in east Ukraine's Donbas region allegedly by local republican militia forces firing an anti-tank guided missile and wounding four soldiers.
A top aide to the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Luhansk’s envoy to the Contact Group said on Thursday that "attempts to accuse the LPR People’s Militia of shelling are absolutely unfounded" and "most weapons with a calibre of less than 100mm have been withdrawn from the contact line to a distance of more than 15 kilometres away from the line".
"Luhansk republic observes the terms of the agreement on withdrawal," Rodion Miroshnik said, adding that observers from the OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - special monitoring mission to Ukraine also confirmed this.
Miroshnik dismissed accusations of shelling as a "provocation" from Kiev forces who "do not want to withdraw their weapons from the contact line. That’s why "there is no reason for an extraordinary meeting of the Contact Group," he added.
Colonel Igor Yashchenko, deputy chief of staff of the LPR People’s Militia corps, also noted that the provocation could have been organised by Ukraine’s radical military units that are "not interested in restoring peace in the Donbas region".
"Representatives of the LPR People’s Militia are ready to help investigate the incident in Troitskoye," Yashchenko said.
Work on the agreement to withdraw weapons not covered by a ceasefire deal brokered in Minsk in February continued for four months but Donetsk and Luhansk officials said initialling the document was each time disrupted by Kiev.
Under the February 12 deal, weapons of over 100mm calibre are meant already to have been withdrawn. On July 18, the Donetsk and Luhansk republics began to unilaterally withdraw tanks and armoured vehicles with a calibre of less than 100mm to a distance of at least three kilometres from the line of military engagement.
Agreement with the government was finally struck on September 29 during talks of the Contact Group in Minsk reviewing progress of the ceasefire in Ukraine. The document was signed by the heads of the two self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk, Igor Plotnitsky and Alexander Zakharchenko, on September 30.
The deal is in essence a supplement to a package of measures to implement the Minsk agreements of February 12 in part concerning withdrawal of tanks, mortars and artillery of less than 100mm calibre.
Tanks are the first to be pulled back at least 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the front line, to be followed by artillery and mortars up to 120 mm. The first stage will last 15 days and the second stage 24 days.
Withdrawal starts from the territory of the Luhansk republic, including Luhansk itself - known as Sector North. Pullout then begins along the remaining disengagement line - part of the Luhansk republic and the entire territory of the Donetsk republic, known as Sector South. The entire process is expected to take 41 days.