Accessibility links

Ukraine Says Won't Pull Back Troops Until Attacks End

  • RFE/RL

Kyiv says it will not pull back its troops from the front line in eastern Ukraine, as called for in a newly agreed buffer-zone deal, until a cease-fire is fully implemented by Russian forces and Russian-backed separatist fighters.

Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, made the remarks a day after government and separatist representatives agreed in Minsk to create a buffer zone between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russian militants.

Lysenko said on September 21 that two government soldiers had been killed and at least eight injured within 24 hours of signing the buffer zone agreement in Minsk.

Lysenko also said pro-Russian separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine had fired at Ukrainian government forces in 22 different locations on September 20.

"If [Ukrainian forces] are withdrawn, it will be done simultaneously with the Russian troop withdrawal," he said.

Russia's government has repeatedly denied having any troops in Ukraine.

But that is a claim that is being viewed with increasing skepticism back in Russia, amid reports about the bodies of dead Russian soldiers being returned from Ukraine, and amid growing signs of discontent among Russians about the Kremlin's role in Ukrainian crisis.

Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities on September 21 to call for an end to what they say is Russia's military involvement in Ukraine.

Yelena Volkova, a protester at the Moscow demonstration, said the message of the antiwar march was "to call on our authorities to stop this outrageous covert war that they don't admit" waging.

Banners at the rally criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies: "Putin, I'm sick of your lies," and "I don't want a war with Ukraine."

On September 20, NATO's top military commander also accused Russia of keeping military forces in Ukrainian territory -- saying that a cease-fire agreement reached on September 5 exists "in name only."

U.S. General Philip Breedlove told reporters in Lithuania, "as to Russian forces on the ground, yes, they are still inside Ukraine."

He did not provide precise numbers of deploy Russian troops.

Breedlove also expressed hope that the Minsk buffer-zone agreement announced on September 20 would help stabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax