Donetsk rebels announce full heavy weapons withdrawal in E. Ukraine

BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher systems are withdrawn from Donetsk towards Amvrosievka as part of Minsk Agreements implementation. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher systems are withdrawn from Donetsk towards Amvrosievka as part of Minsk Agreements implementation. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Voskresenskiy)

Eastern Ukrainian rebels say they have withdrawn all heavy weaponry in Donetsk and relocated 80 percent of hardware in Lugansk, in accordance with the Minsk-2 peace agreements.

The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)
said they completed the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the
500-kilometer demarcation line.

Heavy weapons were pulled back on Saturday in Donetsk, Torez,
Dmitrovka, Pervomaisk, Bezymennoye, and Samoylovka, according to
DPR spokesman Eduard Basurin.

“During the whole withdrawal operation, the DNR militia has
pulled out 21 artillery groups,”
he said.

The militias in Lugansk Region said they relocated most of their
heavy arms, but will need a couple more days to complete the

READ MORE: OSCE ‘welcomes’ artillery withdrawal by both sides in
E. Ukraine

“As of mid-day February 28, the corps of the people’s militia
has withdrawn 80 percent of heavy weapons from the demarcation
line. By March 2 or 3, the process of the withdrawal of heavy
weapons is planned to be completed. Of course, if there are no
a Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) statement

Ukrainian forces are also withdrawing their heavy weapons, but
the rebels blame Kiev for delaying the process. According to
Basurin, Ukraine has so far pulled out only 15 percent of its
hardware in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

“There was no control from the OSCE (Organization for
Security and Co-operation in Europe) and the weaponry was
relocated to positions from which it can be returned within an
the DPR representative said.

According to the daily report by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring
Mission, the Ukrainian military’s staff said it can speed up the
withdrawal of weapons if the ceasefire agreed during the Minks
talks holds.

The report said that on Friday, observers witnessed the
withdrawal of four DPR convoys and two LPR convoys, while Kiev
pulled out some of is hardware from Artemovsk and

READ MORE: Kiev trying to invalidate weapons
withdraw plan, undermine Minsk deal – militia

The deputy chief monitor of the OSCE mission to Ukraine,
Alexander Hug, told DPA news agency that the ceasefire between
Kiev and the rebels is holding along most of the demarcation
line. However, the sides may require more time to complete the
withdrawal of heavy weaponry than the two-week period agreed in

The withdrawal of heavy weaponry is a mandatory step set out by
the Minsk ceasefire agreements signed earlier this month. Under
the deal, both sides must pull their heavy weapons back from the
demarcation line to form a buffer zone of 50 to 140km, depending
on the type of weapon.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told 112 channel
that at “any moment, our military is ready to redeploy its
hardware to the former positions if there is a need to repel the

A prisoner exchange is also underway between the sides, with
Kiev’s negotiator, Yury Tandit, saying he expects all Ukraine
servicemen to be released by March 5.

The country’s conflict began in April 2014, after Kiev sent its
military to the southeastern regions that refused to recognize
the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital. Nearly a year of
fighting has led to at least 5,793 deaths, according to UN
estimates. Another 14,595 people have been wounded.

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