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AFP
October 30, 2019

Ukraine, separatists begin troop pullback

World

AFP
October 30, 2019

KIEV: The Ukrainian army and Moscow-backed separatists said on Tuesday they had begun to withdraw their troops from a key area in the war-torn east ahead of a high-stakes summit with Russia.

The long-awaited pullback is a precondition for the first face-to-face talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, to be mediated by the leaders of France and Germany.

"The process of troop withdrawal began by both sides... in the area of Zolote-4" in the Lugansk region, Ukraine’s army said on Facebook. Vladislav Deinego, a representative of the separatist self-proclaimed Lugansk republic, also said the withdrawal in the area had begun. Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe confirmed the move.

"Today the sides have just resumed the withdrawal of troops and arms in Zolote," Martin Sajdik, an OSCE special representative, told journalists. The rival forces also need to withdraw troops from the village of Petrivske in the Donetsk region for the high-profile summit to go ahead.

Since coming to power in May, comedian-turned-president Zelensky has sought to revive a peace process to end a five-year-old separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that has claimed some 13,000 lives.

But those efforts have stalled as the Kiev forces and the Kremlin-backed separatists have repeatedly failed to pull back troops from the frontline because of exchanges of gunfire.

Zelensky’s peace plan including the troop pullback has been strongly criticised by many in Kiev, especially war veterans and nationalists.