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Amid Shelling, School Evacuated Near Ukrainian Town Where Troops Withdrew Ahead Of Peace Talks


Ukrainian soldiers dig and equip trenches at their new positions not far from the town of Zolote in the Luhansk region on November 2.

A primary school has been evacuated amid an artillery barrage 13 kilometers from Zolote, a town in the easternmost Luhansk region where Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists have withdrawn their forces ahead of a pending summit to find peace in the Donbas conflict.

At its evening briefing, the Ukrainian military stated that the "enemy used a wide spectrum of weapons, ranging from small arms to mortars of different calibers and 122-millimeter artillery."

During the shelling, the schoolchildren in the town of Novotoshkivske were taken to a bomb shelter and no casualties were reported among the civilian population.

Zolote is one of three settlements in eastern Ukraine where Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists are supposed to pull back forces and weapons before four-way peace talks commence between Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia to seek an end to the Donbas conflict, which has killed more than 13,000 people.

Close to 100 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this year, according to local news site Censor.net, which keeps a monthly tally of casualties.

Nine Ukrainian military personnel were killed in October, including Yaroslava Nykonenko, 36, a woman who served in the elite security brigade of the military's General Staff.

Forces on both sides have already withdrawn from Stanytsya Luhanska, a crucial civilian crossing point in the Luhansk region where a damaged bridge is being repaired over a river to ease pedestrian traffic in the clogged area.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been monitoring the conflict, including the withdrawal of forces.

"I welcome the completion of the withdrawal of forces and hardware from the disengagement area of Zolote and the start of demining activities," Martin Sajdik, the OSCE's special envoy in Ukraine, said on November 4.

"Encouraged by the progress in Stanytsia Luhanska and Zolote, I urge the sides to do everything necessary for relaunching the process of disengagement in the area of Petrivske as soon as possible.”

Ukraine's military has said technical inspections, demining, and clearing Zolote of explosive projectiles are scheduled to last until November 9.

A withdrawal of troops has been postponed in the Donetsk region town of Petrivske, where fighting has resumed -- the agreement to meet for the four-way talks stipulates that fighting must cease for seven days before the withdrawal process can begin.

With reporting by Censor.net and Ukrayinska Pravda
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