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Mediator Says Warring Sides In Ukraine Agree To Pull Back Heavy Weapons

A destroyed Ukrainian tank on the front line near the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka

An international mediator says Ukraine's warring sides have agreed to withdraw heavy weapons from the front line by February 20 in line with the Minsk peace plan.

Martin Sajdik, the lead negotiator on the Ukraine crisis for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on February 15 that Ukraine, Russia, and the Russia-backed separatists all agreed to the move after a fresh round of talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

The agreement comes after a surge in violence earlier this month left several dozen people dead around the town of Avdiyivka.

Under the 2015 Minsk peace plan, the warring parties are supposed to withdraw their big guns to create a buffer zone along the front line.

The Minsk agreement has been repeatedly violated by both sides and no progress has been made toward a political resolution of the conflict in the two years since it was signed.

The conflict has cost more than 9,750 lives since 2014.

Based on reporting by AFP, TASS, and Interfax