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Ukrainian forces launch preparations for withdrawing mortars from contact line in Donbass

October 15, 2015, 0:37 UTC+3 KIEV

The withdrawal is planned to start on October 15

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KIEV, October 14. /TASS/. Ukrainian forces have started preparing for withdrawing weaponry from the part of the Lugansk Region controlled by Kiev, the press service of the military operation said on Thursday.

"Preparations for withdrawing mortars and artillery of less than 100mm caliber continue," the press service said. The withdrawal is planned to start on October 15.

Ukrainian General Staff spokesperson Vladislav Seleznev told TASS earlier that Ukrainian forces started withdrawing tanks on October 5 and planned to finish the process in two days thus completing the first stage of withdrawing weaponry from the disengagement line. Seleznev also noted that "the withdrawal of artillery systems will begin after tanks are pulled back."

In accordance with the Minsk Agreements, the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) started withdrawing tanks from the contact line in Donbass on October 3. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) defense ministry said that weaponry withdrawal on its territory will start after October 18 if ceasefire holds.

The supplement to the Package of measures on implementing the Minsk Agreements from 12 February 2015 was agreed upon on September 29 at the negotiations of the Contact Group in Minsk. The supplement envisages withdrawal of tanks, artillery weapons of less than 100mm caliber, and mortars of equal to or less than 120mm caliber to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line in Donbass. On September 30, the document was signed by DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko and LPR head Igor Plotnitsky.

In accordance with the reached agreement, tanks are withdrawn first, followed by artillery weapons of less than 100mm caliber and mortars. The first stage should start two days after the complete ceasefire and finish in 15 days. The second stage will take 24 days to complete. The withdrawal will start in the "North" sector on the LPR territory and will continue in the "South" sector in DPR. The whole process of withdrawal is expected to take a total of 41 days.

Minsk agreements on Ukraine

The Minsk accords were signed on February 12, after negotiations in the so-called "Normandy format" in the Belarusian capital Minsk, bringing together Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko.

The Minsk accords envisage ceasefire, weaponry withdrawal, prisoner exchange, local election in Donbass, constitutional reform in Ukraine and establishing working sub-groups on security, political, economy and humanitarian components of the Minsk accords.

The Ukrainian forces and the self-defense forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics have repeatedly accused each other of violating ceasefire and other points of the Minsk agreements.

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