“Today, following the order from Igor Plotnitsky, the head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, we start a unilateral withdrawal of arms less than 100mm caliber from the line of engagement to a distance of at least 3km,” Sergey Kozlov, the head of the Staff of the Lugansk People’s Militia said as cited by LuganskInformCentre.
He added that “despite the complicated military and political situation in Ukraine,” the Lugansk People’s Republic is not going to use such an advantage and “provoke a new cycle of conflict.”
“[We are] demonstrating the adherence to the Minsk agreements, [and] we are taking this step openly and unilaterally, hoping that as a result for the same will be done in response by the Ukrainian side.”
The authorities of fellow self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic announced a similar move, adding that monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are witnessing the redeployment.
Kiev authorities, however, say they doubt that the rebels are actually pulling weapons back. “They say one thing and do the opposite,” the Ukrainian presidential administration’s spokesman for the military operation, Aleksander Motuzyanik, told RIA Novosti.
The information that East Ukraine self-defense forces from Donetsk and Lugansk are ready to pull back their smaller weapons emerged on Saturday.
“We are ready to make the next step towards peace. For that, [we are ready] to pull back our units with tanks and armored vehicles, equipped with weapons under 100mm caliber, to at least 3km (1.9 miles) from the front line,” a statement from the rebel forces said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
The latest unilateral step from eastern Ukrainian anti-Kiev troops comes despite previous violations by Kiev authorities of agreements by both sides to withdraw heavy weapons. Some volunteer units, such as the Aidar Battalion refused their government’s orders to leave their positions in the conflict zones, with more heavy fighting erupting.