Ukraine army, rebels pull back troops from eastern town

Negotiators for Kiev and the pro-Moscow rebels reached an agreement in September to demilitarise three frontline areas in eastern Ukraine, withdrawing heavy arms and fighters from the towns of Stanytsya Luganska as well as Zoloteand Petrovske (AFP Photo/Aleksey Filippov)

Kiev (AFP) - Ukraine's army and pro-Russian separatists both announced Saturday the pull back of their troops from a small eastern city as agreed in a demilitarisation accord signed last month.

Ukrainian military spokesman Valentyn Shevchenko told AFP that both sides had moved their forces to several kilometres (miles) away from Zolote.

"Some representatives of the OSCE observer mission confirmed the retreat," he said, referring to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The official press agency of the separatists in eastern Ukraine also announced the retreat of their troops from Zolote.

"Not a single soldier remains at the positions which they previously occupied, conforming to what is required by the Minsk peace accord," rebel commander Mikhail Filimonenko said, according to the agency.

Negotiators for Kiev and the pro-Moscow rebels reached an agreement in Minsk in September to demilitarise three frontline areas in eastern Ukraine, withdrawing heavy arms and fighters from the towns of Stanytsya Luganska as well as Zolote in the Lugansk region and Petrovske in the Donetsk region.

The retreat of troops has not yet taken place in the other two cities, according to the separatists.

Enacting this accord would create a security perimeter of two kilometres (1.2 miles) around the three frontline towns and is seen as a small step forward in Ukraine's stalled peace process.

The conflict erupted after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of fuelling the conflict, which has killed more than 9,640 people. Moscow however denies government involvement.

A peace deal brokered by Germany and France in February 2015 reduced the intensity of fighting but has failed to stop it.

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