Kiev completes light arms pullout from eastern front: army

7th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's military said Saturday it had finished withdrawing its light weapons from the eastern frontline with pro-Russia rebels, where clashes have erupted in recent days despite a ceasefire.

Ukrainian soldiers withdrew its 82 mm calibre mortars from the villages of Pisky and Opytne near the ruins of Donetsk airport, which was ravaged by intense fighting last year, army spokesman Oleksandr Zavtonov told AFP.

A military convoy transporting mortars could be seen moving away from government positions in Pisky towards an arms depot, an AFP journalist said.

A Ukrainian soldier told AFP that troops near the front now have only firearms left.

"We do not respond to the rebels' provocations or shots. But if we must defend ourselves, we now only have guns, Kalashnikov (rifles) and stones," said 39-year-old Eduard, a soldier in Ukraine's 93rd Brigade.

Saturday's pullout completed the government's weapons withdrawal from the Donetsk area.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), tasked with overseeing the pullout, made no immediate comment on the government's announcement.

Kiev's withdrawal came after pro-Moscow rebels said they pulled out their light arms from the area on Thursday.

A similar withdrawal took place in the Lugansk area in October.

The chief monitor for the OSCE, Ertugrul Apakan, said this week that the ceasefire was "largely holding" but that the situation remains "volatile".

A peace deal signed in February in Minsk calls for a vote to be held in the separatist regions under international auspices. Those elections have now been pushed back to early 2016.

The Ukraine conflict that erupted in the aftermath of 2014's pro-democracy revolt left more than 8,000 people dead.

© 2015 AFP

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