Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists began Saturday the withdrawal of their troops from a key sector of the front line in the east of the country, a possible prelude to a highly anticipated peace summit.
"The withdrawal of troops and armament began" between the villages of Petrivské and Bogdanivka, told reporters present on site a senior officer of the Ukrainian army, Bogdan Bondar.
The authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic (DNR), quoted by the official DAN press agency, and the Russian envoy in the peace talks Boris Gryzlov, quoted by the TASS agency, have each "welcomed" the surgery.
Very codified, the beginning of this withdrawal of troops began shortly after 12:00 (10:00 GMT), with the sending by the separatists and Ukrainians of flares, a white on each side meaning that both sides were ready, then a green meaning they were starting to withdraw.
Under the watchful eye of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers, who oversee the operation, soldiers on both sides began to retreat in order. They must move back one kilometer on either side of the front line.
The OSCE confirmed the start of the withdrawal adding that they "will continue to verify the process".
On the Ukrainian side, an AFP journalist saw three armored combat vehicles, two military trucks and about twenty soldiers withdrawing.
"On 12 November at 12.00, the troops and equipment will have to be moved to the new positions", signifying the end of the withdrawal process, said Bogdan Bondar. 25 days will be spent on demining the area and dismantling the trenches and fortifications.
The villages of Petrivské and Bogdanivka, the first controlled by the separatists and the second by Kiev, are located near the rebel "capital" of Donetsk.
A summit "not 100%"
The disengagement was first scheduled for Monday then Friday but had been postponed due to shootings in the area. Two more retreats of the front-line troops took place in June and late October. A retreat on the entire front line, more than 400 kilometers long, can now be envisaged.
Saturday's disengagement is "the last precondition for the organization of the quadripartite summit" between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders with the mediation of their French and German counterparts, said this week the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Vadym Prystaiko.
If Moscow is less categorical, Vadym Prystaiko hopes that this meeting between Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel could take place in November in Paris. This would be the first meeting at this level since 2016.
The holding of such a summit has already been mentioned many times in recent weeks without ever materializing, especially since Moscow conditioned a resumption of talks to a retreat of troops in these three small sectors of the front line.
Launched under the leadership of the new Ukrainian president, in office since May, this disengagement is causing much concern in Ukraine, where critics of Zelensky accuse him of negotiating with Russia without informing the public, or even "surrender "in front of the Kremlin.
"The chances of the summit going up are still far from 100%," Ukrainian analyst Volodymyr Fessenko told AFP, noting that "there are still many controversial issues between Russia and Ukraine" on which it will be difficult to agree.
This war has killed about 13,000 people since its outbreak five years ago, a month after Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Ukrainians and Westerners accuse Moscow of financially and militarily supporting the separatists and de facto control the area, which Moscow denies.
09/11/2019 16:20:22 –
Bogdanivka (Ukraine) (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP