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Ukraine Registers Second 24-Hour Period Without Combat Deaths

Ukraine's military has reported there were no combat fatalities in the conflict zone in the east for a second straight 24-hour period.

The February 26 announcement raises hopes the latest cease-fire agreement could be taking hold after Russian-backed separatists initially ignored the truce and seized the strategic town of Debaltseve in a major offensive.

National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said all conditions have now been created for government forces to withdraw their heavy weaponry from the front lines, a step Kyiv had been unwilling to take because of what it said were persistent rebel attacks.

The Council said the order to pull back heavy weapons had not yet been given, however.

At the devasted Donetsk airport -- the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in a conflict that has killed more than 5,600 people since April -- separatist forces claimed to have recovered the bodies of at least 30 Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukrainian troops were forced to abandon the airport last month.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and TASS