21-05-2022 10:49 PM Jerusalem Timing

Ukraine Separatists Complete Small Arms Withdrawal

Ukraine Separatists Complete Small Arms Withdrawal

Ukraine’s separatists said on Thursday they had completed the withdrawal of their smaller weapons from a buffer zone in the ex-Soviet state’s separatist east.

Ukrainian soldiersUkraine's separatists said on Thursday they had completed the withdrawal of their smaller weapons from a buffer zone in the ex-Soviet state's separatist east.

The reported pullback was in line with a new trust-building agreement that was signed on September 1 since when only seven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed.

"Today, we have completed the arms withdrawal," Donetsk ground commander Eduard Basurin said.

He added the last nine mortars had been pulled back from Ilovaisk -- a frontline town where Ukraine lost more than 100 servicemen in an onslaught by the separatists in August.

The pullback was witnessed by observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

A similar deal regarding larger weapons that was struck during international negotiations in February was never fully implemented.

Kiev announced the end of a similar pullback from the smaller pro-Russian Lugansk region on Tuesday.

But Basurin said Kiev was not expected to move all its tanks and mortars from the Donetsk front until the weekend.

The proposed buffer zone is meant to stretch 30-kilometers (19 miles) wide and be overseen by OSCE monitors from both Russia and the West.

The September 1 deal was unexpectedly signed after a series of broken ceasefires that had left world leaders scrambling to find a way to halt a conflict which has killed more than 8,000 people in 18 months.

It was negotiated without the presence of Russia or Germany and France -- the main European sponsors of previous peace talks and close allies of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.