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Pullout of heavy armaments from contact line in Donbass should start Feb 22

The pullout of heavy armaments from the line of contact in Donbass (the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in east Ukraine) should start today, the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper reported citing Pyotr Kanonik, the head of the Ukrainian group of military in the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) of ceasefire issues and situation stabilization.

"An hour ago, Russia's representative in the joint center [Col. Gen.] Alexander Lentsov signed [with self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic leader Alexander] Zakharchenko, and before that, with [head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic Igor] Plotnitsky documents to pull out heavy armaments," Kanonik said.

"The H-hour is on February 22," he said.

Earlier, Lentsov said that in line with the Package of Measures on implementation of the Minsk agreements signed February 12 by the Contact Group on Ukraine, Ukrainian army units will be withdrawn from the actual contact line, while DPR and LPR formations from the line defined by the Minsk Memorandum of September 19.

Clashes between Ukrainian troops and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev's military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over parts of the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), have left thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee Ukraine's embattled east.

The parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreed on a ceasefire at talks on September 5, 2014 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine. The ceasefire has reportedly been numerously violated since.

Ukraine's parliament on September 16, 2014 adopted the law on a special self-rule status for certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions for three years. The law took effect October 18, 2014 but was then repealed by Kiev.

The Trilateral Contact Group on settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine comprising representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE adopted a memorandum on September 19, 2014 in Minsk. The document outlined the parameters for the implementation of commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine laid down in the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

The nine-point memorandum in particular envisioned a ban on the use of all armaments and withdrawal of weapons with the calibers of over 100 millimeters to a distance of 15 kilometers from the contact line from each side. The OSCE was tasked with controlling the implementation of memorandum provisions.

The Contact Group held meetings in late December 2014 and on January 31, 2015. They did not bring major results.

Regular talks of the participants of the Trilateral Contact Group were held in Minsk on February 10-12. At that meeting of the Contact Group, a 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the Minsk agreements was adopted.

The package in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of the special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The document was signed by OSCE Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, ex-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Russian Ambassador in Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, as well as self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics' leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky.

Talks of the Normandy Four leaders (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) on the Ukrainian issue also ended February 12 in Minsk.

[Source: Itar Tass, Kiev, 22Feb15]

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