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article imageKiev says starting withdrawal of heavy weapons from frontline  

By AFP     Feb 26, 2015 in World

Ukraine's military said Thursday it was starting the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline with pro-Russian rebels, a key step in a stuttering peace plan.

"Ukraine is today (Thursday) beginning the withdrawal of 100mm cannons from the frontline," the military said in a statement.

"This is the first step in the pull-back of heavy weapons and will be carried out exclusively under the supervision and verification of the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)," the statement said.

The start of the withdrawal by Kiev comes after a shaky truce that was meant to come into force February 15 finally took hold across the Ukraine conflict zone in recent days.

The withdrawal of all weapons over a calibre of 100mm is meant to contribute to a buffer zone between the two warring sides of between 50 and 140 kilometres (31 and 87 miles), depending on the range of the arms.

Under the terms of the peace plan signed by both Kiev and the rebels this month, the withdrawal is meant to be completed in 14 days.

Rebels already insist they have begun to pull back their heavy weapons but OSCE monitors on the ground have so far been unable to independently verify the claims.

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