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Ukraine army puts off withdrawal of heavy weapons from frontline of conflict

23 February 2015 17:16

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The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says the army will not withdraw heavy weapons along the frontline in the conflict-stricken east as long as a full ceasefire with pro-Russia forces has not come into force.

“As long as pro-Russians continue firing at (our) soldiers’ positions, we cannot talk about withdrawing heavy weapons,” Defense Ministry spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, said in the capital, Kiev, on Monday.

Ukraine military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Anatoliy Stelmakh, also told reporters that no weapons withdrawal will begin until pro-Moscow forces stand down, and their attacks entirely stop.

Stelmakh added that there had been two artillery attacks overnight, and “as long as firing on Ukrainian military positions continues, it’s not possible to talk about a pullback.”

Colonel Valentyn Fedichev, deputy commander of the military operation against the pro-Russians, said there had been 27 attacks against Ukrainian forces over the past 24 hours, adding, “If the enemies continue to use their own heavy weapons, it is clear that Ukraine will continue to counteract these operations.”

Ukraine’s warring sides moving heavy weapons

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) spokesman, Michael Bocuirkiw, says monitors had seen heavy weapons movements by both sides but could not yet determine whether weapons were being withdrawn or just being redeployed.

East Ukraine ceasefire

During peace talks in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 11-12, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Ukraine’s frontlines and a ceasefire, which officially went into effect at 2200 GMT on February 14. The two sides of the conflict, however, have continued to engage in sporadic clashes.

Source of Ukraine conflict

Donetsk and Lugansk are two mainly Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine that have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations in April last year to crush pro-Russia forces there.

In May 2014, the situation in the two flashpoint regions started to worsen as residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Ukraine in referendums.

Nearly 5,700 people have been killed and close to a million have been displaced since the armed conflict began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

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