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Ukraine Doubts Russian Soldiers, Separatists Withdrawal of Weapons

The pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine announced on their website they are withdrawing their military equipment from Debaltseve, Gorlovka, Donetsk, and Telman. Despite the declaration, Kiev has indicated officials believe these alleged withdrawals are a way to mask advancements in other cities.

“Today at 9 am our units continued withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact,” announced Edward Basurin, the Donetsk People’s Republic’s deputy commander of the Ministry of Defense Corps.

A cease-fire implemented on February 15 immediately collapsed as Russian soldiers and pro-Russians refused to participate. They attacked Ukraine over 250 times during the week and captured railway hub city Debaltseve from Kiev. Just a few days after the capture, the separatists now want to acknowledge the cease-fire and even put on a show for journalists. Reuters journalists witnessed a withdrawal in the areas:

Reuters journalists in rebel-held territory watched 10 trucks carrying howitzers roll through Makiyvka, near rebel-held Donetsk. Rebels said the guns were on their way from Donetsk toward Amvrosiyvka, a town far from the front and close to the Russian frontier.

Near Amvrosiyvka, Reuters journalists saw a second convoy carrying 14 howitzers, also heading toward the Russian border.

However, Basurin said the separatists desire to take Mariupol, an important port city on the Black Sea, from Ukraine, but hope to do it through “negotiations with the Ukrainian side.” Kiev believes the Russians and separatists are moving the weapons to Mariupol.

“The enemy is moving its hardware and personnel closer to the line of contact, primarily, in the Mariupol sector,” said Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko. “Forces and equipment of the illegal armed units are being built up near the town of Pisky in Donetsk sector, and near Stakhaniv and Brianka in Luhansk region.”

Rebels already fired upon villages near Mariupol on Monday afternoon, including a full attack on Shyrokyne. The town is only 14 miles east of Mariupol.

“The fighters have not stopped their attempts to storm our positions in Shyrokyne, in the direction of Mariupol,” claimed military spokesman Anatoly Stelmakh. “At midnight armed groups again attempted unsuccessfully to attack our soldiers. The battle lasted half an hour.”

Kiev announced officials cannot withdraw any of their military weapons due to attacks from the Russian soldiers and separatists.

“Given that the positions of Ukrainian servicemen continue to be shelled, there cannot yet be any talk of pulling back weapons,” said defense forces spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov.

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