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Ukraine's pro-Russian rebels say tanks withdrawn

Rebels have announced they have moved a column of tanks away from the front line in eastern Ukraine. Both the pro-Kremlin forces and the Ukrainian army agreed to withdraw tanks and light weapons after Paris talks.

The move on Saturday was intended as the first step in the pullback, which is scheduled to last for 40 days.

"People's militia of the Lugansk People's Republic have begun a withdrawal of tanks from the line of contact in accordance with the Minsk deal," said the official news agency of the rebel region, referring to the Western-backed peace deal agreed in February.

The news comes a day after the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Paris in the latest bid to find a solution for the conflict.

Kyiv and the rebel authorities also plan to move mortar shells and rockets with a caliber under 100 millimeters at least 15 kilometers (nine miles) away from the conflict zone.

Clashes dying down

The Ukrainian army was also scheduled to start its own weapons withdrawal on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian General Staff spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov.

"The withdrawal process will be conducted under complete control of international observers and under conditions of the ceasefire," Seleznyov told reporters on Friday, adding that the Ukrainian authorities were coordinating with the OSCE.

The pullback is to include tanks, artillery and mortars, according to Ukrainian military officials.

The fighting in Ukraine has all but stopped during recent weeks, boosting hopes for a peaceful solution of the conflict, which claimed some 8,000 lives in the last year and a half.

Western powers have also been shifting their attention from the Ukraine crisis to the Russian military strikes in Syria, pressuring Moscow over Kremlin's support to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

dj/rc (AFP, Interfax)

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