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Russia's Lavrov Calls For Pullback Of More Weapons In Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has proposed that both sides in the conflict in Ukraine withdraw weapons of under 100 mm caliber from the line of contact as a way of boosting confidence in a February cease-fire.

Lavrov made the comment in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, where he was holding talks with officials and attending festivities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Bratislava's liberation by the Red Army in World War II.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, Lavrov said it was necessary to monitor mainly the military part of the February Minsk agreement.

Since April 2014, more than 6,000 people have been killed in fighting between government forces and rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Violence has decreased since the Minsk agreement, which established a cease-fire between government soldiers and separatist fighters, came into force.

The agreement also committed both sides to withdrawing larger weapons of 100 mm caliber or more and to creating a security zone at least 50 kilometers wide within 14 days.

Lajcak called for the implementation of the Minsk agreement, saying, “Without stability in Ukraine it won't be possible to renew the international order and confidence in Europe."

Lavrov also said that Ukrainian legislation granting limited self-rule to rebel-held areas goes “in the opposite direction" to the spirit of the Minsk deal.

Russia will work to stop it, he added.

Ukraine's parliament passed "special status" legislation on March 17 but stipulated that it will take effect only after elections are held in accordance with Ukrainian law, a condition Russia and the rebels oppose.

Also on April 4, the Ukrainian military said three of its servicemen had been killed and two wounded in a land-mine explosion in the country’s east.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the casualties happened near the town of Avdiyivka, a government-held town north of rebel-held Donetsk.

The announcement came on International Mine Awareness Day.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says unexploded mines and ammunition pose a special threat to children in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have fought pro-Russian separatists.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS
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