Ukraine Day 963: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces are reported to have conducted a simultaneous withdrawal from one of three “disengagement zones” in the Donbass.
Yevgeniy Marchuk, a Ukrainian representative in the trilateral Contact Group peace talks, reported on Facebook today that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) had confirmed the withdrawal of both sides’ forces from the Petrovskoye area, south of Donetsk.
“The simultaneous withdrawal of troops from Petrovskoye is complete. the OSCE SMM observed and confirmed. For round-the-clock monitoring a group of Ukrainian officers from the JCCC [Joint Center for Control and Coordination] will remain behind, as well as observers from the OSCE SMM.”
“For the skeptics and critics of the attempt at simultaneous withdrawals I say: during the time of our work on the withdrawal areas around Zolotoye and Petrovskoye, and this has been almost a month, there has not been a single Ukrainian servicemen killed or wounded here.”
Eduard Basurin, spokesman for the Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk, said that his side had received notice from the JCCC (a joint monitoring and coordination group made up of delegations from the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces) that the Ukrainians had confirmed their withdrawal.
Basurin said that the forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) had also been withdrawn at the agreed time of 11:00 today.
On Monday, photos revealed that Russian or Russia-backed troops, having partially withdrawn from Petrovskoye over the weekend, had returned to the area, along with armored vehicles.
While Marchuk reported positive news about the situation around Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, in the Lugansk region, the third planned disengagement area – Stanitsa Luganskaya – remains beset by fighting.
The Ukrainian military reported grenade-launcher and small-arms attacks in this area yesterday.
Furthermore, the Lugansk Regional Administration reported this morning that there had been similar attacks near Zolotoye overnight.
Marchuk told Ukrainska Pravda this morning that contrary to the fears of the Lugansk governor Yuriy Harbuz, there was no plan to withdraw troops from the town of Stanitsa Luganskaya itself, merely to withdraw 1 kilometre from the banks of the Seversky Donets river, which divides Ukrainian and separatist-controlled territory there.
According to Marchuk, the demarcation line along the river would remain intact, with Russia-backed forces withdrawing a kilometre to the south simultaneously.
Across the whole front line, the Ukrainian military reported 30 attacks yesterday. Three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded.
Ministry of Defense spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko gave a briefing today: