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Poroshenko: Rebels have withdrawn significant amount of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine

Both sides appear to be honoring a term of a ceasefire to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. President Poroshenko said rebels have withdrawn a "significant" amount of heavy weaponry from the front lines.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have withdrawn a significant amount of heavy weaponry from the front lines, appearing to honor the terms of a recently-brokered ceasefire.

"There is a ceasefire, or there isn't. It depends on how you look at it. You can say that we managed to halt the offensive drive of the aggressor," Poroshenko said in an interview broadcast on Ukrainian state television.

"Ukraine has withdrawn the lion's share of its rocket and heavy artillery systems. The Russian-backed fighters have also withdrawn a significant amount," Poroshenko said.

The truce, negotiated in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, has been largely holding, although Kyiv charges the rebels with continuing to fire on government positions and using the ceasefire to regroup and rearm for additional offensives - charges the separatists deny.

Poroshenko also said 64 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the conflict zone since the ceasefire went into effect on February 15 and that he would meet with his "war cabinet" to discuss "important decisions" on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian leader's comments come as it was revealed Russian President Vladimir Putin made the decision to annex Crimea after a night-long meeting at the Kremlin, following the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine, which broke out shortly after the Crimea annexation last April, has claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 people.

bw/gsw (Reuters, AFP)

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