Ukraine Gov't, Rebels Fail to Begin Heavy Weapons Withdrawal

Ukraine | February 17, 2015, Tuesday // 08:24|  views

Photo by EPA/BGNES

Neither Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels have started pulling arms out of the areas of conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Kiev says the army would not pull back until the siege around Debaltseve ends, whereas the rebels insist the army should leave the beleaguered city which in their opinion is not part of the Minsk agreement.

A deal brokered by the leaders of France, Germany and Russia was signed between Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko and pro-Russian rebels acting in the Donbass region to initiate a process of ending the conflict there.

The first point, a ceasefire, was to be implemented starting from midnight on Sunday, and was largely observed despite scores of violations in the area of Debaltseve.

There have been 112 attacks of pro-Russian rebels on surrounded troops, Ukrainian army officials say - something which in their words counts as failure to fulfill the first part of the agreement.

Therefore the army cannot stick to its commitment to withdrawing of heavy arms.

But rebels' "Defense Minister" Vladimir Konovov is quoted by the BBC as saying heavy weapons will be withdrawn only if Ukraine is the first to start.

Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the Donetsk activists, is also adamant that the army has to stop the shelling on rebel targets before any pullout takes place.

Washington has also reacted, with the US Department of State calling on "Russia and the separatists it backs" to halt all attaks immediately.

Another step that has to be taken under the agreement is to set up a 50-140 km buffer zone between the two sides, but having the heavy weapons withdrawn is a prerequisite.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin's press office reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with Ukrainian counterpart Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel late on Monday the situation in Ukraine.

According to the statement, the three agreed to continue dialogue on the ceasefire's results, but it is not clear if they gave any assessment of the situation on the ground.

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Tags: Russia, Ukraine, Donbass, France, Germany, rebels, pro-Russian, Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, ceasefire, withdrawal, Debaltseve


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