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Ukraine troops, rebels pull out of Donbass site

November 11, 2019

Kyiv has pulled out troops from the area near the village of Petrivske, paving a way for a new top level peace summit. Russia's Vladimir Putin and Germany's Angela Merkel spoke about granting Donbass a special status.

Ukraine troops prepare to board armored cars
Image: Reuters/O. Klymenko

Ukraine's military removed its troops and armored vehicles from the front line near the villages of Petrivske and Bohdanivka on Monday, as both Kyiv and rebel commanders work to disengage their forces from the remaining flashpoints in eastern Ukraine.

The area is now set to be cleared of mines, a military spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

Separately, the pro-Russian rebels also said they were pulling away from the front line, but reported being shelled and fired upon by Ukrainian troops during the three-day process.

Ukraine Konflikt in der Ostukraine | Petrovskoye, Petrivske
The two sides have been fighting in eastern Ukraine, inlcuding Petrivske, since 2014Image: Reuters/A. Ermochenko

Zelenskiy's tense peace effort

The latest pullout follows a similar disengagement near the town of Zolote in the rebel-held Luhansk region. Both developments are part of a peace process spearheaded since the election of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy hopes to ensure a top-level international peace summit in the coming weeks and resolve the years-long conflict that killed at least 13,000 people. The 41-year-old Ukrainian leader has been praised for pushing through a landmark prisoner swap with Russia in September. However, he also sparked criticism within Ukraine by suggesting to grant a special status to rebel-held Donbass.

Putin, Merkel discuss Donbass status

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Ukraine in a phone call.

"The necessity of enshrining Donbass' special status in Ukraine's legal system has been underlined," the Russian officials said, without providing details.

A rebel fighter in Petrivske
The effort to clear the area of mines is set to start on TuesdayImage: Reuters/A. Ermochenko

The two leaders also spoke about "plans for preparation of a possible summit," according to the Kremlin. Separately, Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said the peace summit might be held before the end of the year.

"The summit should produce new positive results," he told reporters at a briefing.

In addition to representatives of Ukraine and Russia, the summit would also include France and Germany in the so-called Normandy format. Despite multiple meetings, the delegates have yet to find a solution to the conflict based on the 2015 Minsk agreement.

dj/msh (AP, Interfax, Ukraine)

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