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Anti-fascists honour ceasefire deal

But Kiev refuses to pull back heavy weapons

ANTI-FASCIST forces in eastern Ukraine announced yesterday that they had begun pulling back heavy weapons from the front line.

Donetsk People’s Republic military commander Eduard Basurin said that his side had started to remove 100 122-mm howitzers.

Embarrassed by the announcement, which contrasted with its own forces’ previous justification of their refusal to act in line with the latest Minsk peace agreement, the Kiev government was reduced to claiming that the rebel pullout wasn’t really taking place.

A rebel official in the Lugansk People’s Republic region reported that Ukrainian forces there had begun a partial pullback, but Kiev military spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko said that no Ukrainian moves were under way.

The rebels “are just regrouping their gangs and are relocating their weapons,” he claimed.

“As soon as there is a ceasefire for two days, that is the signal to start a withdrawal.”

The Minsk talks delivered an agreement on February 12 that a wide buffer zone should be created between separatist rebels’ and government forces’ artillery as part of efforts to end the conflict that has left nearly 5,800 dead since April.

Reporters saw about a dozen howitzers moving from Donetsk through the town of Khartsyzk, six miles east of the line of conflict. Their final destination was unclear.

The peace plan calls for heavy weapons to be pulled back 15 to 45 miles from the front line, depending on their calibre.

The disagreement over whether a withdrawal was taking place coincided with the onset of peace talks in Paris, attended by the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.

Kiev military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Anatoliy Stelmakh claimed yesterday that rebels had shelled the town of Popasna seven times and launched one barrage on the village of Luhanske.

He accused them also of having tried to storm government positions near the southern village of Shyrokyne, which is close to the strategic Azov Sea port of Mariupol.


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