The weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine will begin this week, one of the Ukraine’s representatives in the Contact Group on Donbass, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SCU) Yevgeny Marchuk said.
“The withdrawal schedule comes with the agreement, containing a 13-day deadline for its implementation. I think that the forces’ disengagement is sure to begin this week,” Marchuk said in an interview with the Ukrainian “Apostrof” e-paper.
He pointed out that on September 21 a very important framework agreement had been signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. ‘If it is implemented diligently and honestly then a radically new process will begin. The agreement concerns the withdrawal of the military units possessing armored vehicles and small arms, from the line of contact. They will be pulled back from both sides of the line, three areas on the line of contact have been chosen for the implementation of this plan,’ Marchuk explained.
According to him, they are the Luganskaya settlement, the Zolotoye settlement (in the Lugansk region) and the Petrovskoye settlement (in the Donetsk region). “Each of them is four square kilometers in length, each side will disengage its units one kilometer away from the line of contact. As for the Luganskaya settlement, at first we wanted to widen this area to the state border,” Marchuk said.
The Ukrainian representative elaborated that these three areas are just the beginning. “There are four more areas that will be agreed on at the next round of talks. If this step proves to be a success, then about a dozen or more areas will be determined to gradually complete the withdrawal process along the whole line of contact, which is 426 kilometers long,” Marchuk noted.
He didn’t say which four areas could be coming next. “It is too early to speak about them. But if you look at the map you will see that they all are situated down (to the south of the Donetsk region). There are some areas where the withdrawal can be difficult to conduct,” he said.
On September 21, the members of the Contact Group on the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine signed a framework agreement on the withdrawal of military units and hardware in Donbass. It took the parties three months to agree on this document. The Contact Group members agreed on “the principles and timing of the disengagement of the Ukrainian military forces and the armed forces of the certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine”, and also on the activities connected with the withdrawal.
The agreements says that the withdrawal of the military units and hardware is to be conducted by taking them back from their positions in both directions in order to create withdrawal areas not less than two kilometers wide and two kilometers long. The necessary condition for the commencement of withdrawal is that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission verifies a total ceasefire over a period of seven days for each of the areas.
A maximum of 30 days is allotted for the disengagement process, including the necessary preparations, in each area. At the same time, the withdrawal process itself should be conducted under the surveillance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission “in a synchronized, mirrored way and must be completed within three days at most.”.