KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine said Tuesday they have begun a large-scale pullback of heavy weapons in line with an international peace plan that aims to form a wide buffer zone between separatists’ and Ukrainian forces’ artillery.
The claim by Eduard Basurin, a top rebel commander, could not immediately be confirmed. Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the observer mission that is monitoring the fighting in eastern Ukraine, said he could not comment until receiving monitors’ reports at the end of the day.
The peace plan that was signed Feb 15 calls for heavy weapons to be pulled back by each side from the front line by 25 to 70 kilometres, depending on their caliber.
There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side, but military officials said this week that they will not pull back weapons until a cease-fire fully takes hold.
On Tuesday, military spokesman Lt Col Anatoliy Stelmakh said rebels had shelled the town of Popasna seven times and launched one barrage on the village of Luhanske.