Ukrainian army ‘not to withdraw all weapons until sure militants have done so’
The Ukrainian armed forces will not withdraw all their weapons from the demarcation line until they are sure the Russian-backed militants have also pulled back theirs, National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing in Kyiv on Wednesday, according to an UNIAN correspondent.
"We have already carried out the fourth stage of the withdrawal of our weapons. We are not going to fully withdraw these weapons, because we do not know that the militants have done the same," he said.
"Therefore, it would be wrong to expose the front line and to leave our soldiers without protection. That’s why we’re leaving our heavy infantry weapons there, which could temporarily stop the advancing forces so that the Ukrainian army could return our artillery to the front," Lysenko said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on March 8 the headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Operation said that the Ukrainian armed forces had completed the fourth stage of the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
As reported earlier, on February 12, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande held talks in Minsk to resolve the conflict in the Donbas.
Following the talks, the parties approved a package of measures aimed at the implementation of the Minsk agreements of September. In addition, the leaders of Ukraine, France, Germany and the Russian Federation adopted a declaration in support of these measures.
In addition to other provisions of the new agreements reached by the "Normandy Four" leaders on Thursday, February 12, the parties agreed on a ceasefire to be effective from 0001, February 15, as well as the withdrawal of all heavy weapons. The agreements also provide for the release and exchange of all prisoners.
Despite the fact that a ceasefire was supposed to come into force, the militants have continued to attack the positions of the Ukrainian armed forces throughout the territory of the Donbas, Ukraine’s military says.