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Half Kiev's forces in east Ukraine killed by poor kit, friendly fire - media

At least a half of the Ukrainian military's losses during the conflict in east Ukraine were caused by the troops' poor kit and friendly fire, The Sunday Times reported.

The paper cited a former UK soldier who resigned to become an instructor of the Ukrainian National Guard in May 2014.

The 40-year-old, a naturalised Briton of Ukrainian descent who had served in Afghanistan and the Middle East said Ukraine's forces made up largely of volunteers and conscripts suffered great casualties because of frequent incidents of friendly fire and the mishandling of weapons, according to the paper.

He said the string of bloody defeats for the Ukrainian army, including last week's fall of Debaltsevo where the Ukrainian troops had been trapped by Donbas militia was largely due to a failure of command and a lack of skills and discipline.

"Six out of 10 casualties among the Ukrainian volunteers occur because of blue-on-blue shooting [the army term for friendly fire] and the inability to handle weapons," said the man who gave only his nom-de-guerre Saffron, the paper said.

Weapons pullout in east Ukraine to start on Feb. 24 - Donetsk Republic's Defense Ministry

Work is beginning on Sunday for the Kiev military and self-defense fighters of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) to pull out heavy weaponry from the delimitation line, DPR Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said by phone on Sunday.

"The pullout was expected to start three days ago but nuances were determined and now all the sides have agreed and decided that February 22 will mark a two-week countdown for the weaponry withdrawal," he said, adding the Kiev military had also agreed to start the heavy weaponry pullout from Sunday.

The weaponry withdrawal will last about two weeks "as was prescribed in the Minsk accords," the spokesman said.

"Preparatory works are under way. Tomorrow will be a holiday and the process of weaponry pullout will really start from February 24," he said.

Representatives of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire and Situation Stabilization earlier said that DPR and LPR heads Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky had signed a plan of the heavy weaponry pullout from the engagement line.

The Center also reported that the DPR and LPR had initiated the weaponry pullout already on February 18.

Under a package of measures signed by the Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis settlement on February 12 for the implementation of the Minsk accords, the Ukrainian army will withdraw weaponry from the actual engagement line while DPR and LPR militias will pull out weapons from the line defined by the Minsk memorandum.

The ceasefire regime in Donbas officially came into force from 01:00 am Moscow time (00:00 hours Kiev time) on February 15.

[Source: Itar Tass, London, 22Feb15]

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