Kiev (AFP) – The UN Security Council on Friday was to hold an emergency session on the fragile truce in Ukraine, a year to the day since Russian troops and pro-Moscow forces began seizing ports and cities on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
The anniversary of the seizure, which sparked the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War, came as a shaky ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels appeared to gain traction.
Both sides said they were continuing to withdraw heavy weapons from along the frontline, a key part of a stuttering peace plan aimed at ending ten months of bloodshed in east Ukraine that has cost some 5,800 lives.
Kiev said Thursday that it had started withdrawing 100-mm cannons, while rebels claim they have nearly completed their pull-back.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), however, told AFP that while they have seen weapon movements on both sides it was too early to confirm that a full withdrawal was taking place.
The situation on the ground remains intensely fragile and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cautioned the withdrawal was “just a first, test step”.
“At any moment our soldiers are ready to return our weapons to their previous positions and rebuff the enemy,” Poroshenko told troops in a speech Friday.
The pull-back, which is meant to create a buffer zone between the two warring sides, is supposed to be completed within two weeks.