The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has confirmed reports that the government is preparing to withdraw heavy artillery from the front lines Thursday.
A statement on its website said: “Following the Agreements reached in Minsk on February 12, Ukraine is today starting to withdraw 100-millimeter guns from the front lines. This is the first step in the withdrawal of heavy weapons, which will be subject to monitoring and verification by the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe]. “
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had ordered his troops to stop firing at 10 p.m. on Saturday February 14 local time. However, heavy fighting continued between government forces and pro-Moscow rebels around the strategically important railway town of Debaltseve.
The city was finally taken by pro-Russian separatists last week, with most government forces withdrawing last Wednesday. Poroshenko claimed that “The troops and formations left in an organized and planned manner” but most see the loss of Debaltseve as a humiliating defeat for the government in Kiev and a sign that the rebels are consolidating their gains in the east of the country.
As an additional embarrassment for Kiev, Russian TV channel Channel 1 filmed the flag of Novorossiya (New Russia), a term the Kremlin uses to describe the territories held by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, is erected as a symbol of their capture of the city.
Raising the flag could be seen as playing a role in the Kremlin crisis narrative, namely that the Kiev government is trying to undermine the right of ethnic Russians in the eastern part of the country to self-determination – albeit in the sphere influence of Moscow.
However, the latest move could give hope that the ceasefire agreement could finally help defuse the conflict and give the Kiev government time to focus on its other pressing issues of soaring inflation and inflation. collapse of the economy.