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Poroshenko Upbeat On Truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says pro-Russian separatists have withdrawn a "significant amount" of heavy weapons as well.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has given a generally upbeat assessment of a three-week-old cease-fire in the east of the country.

Speaking to Ukrainian TV on March 9, Poroshenko said Ukrainian forces had withdrawn "the lion's share of its rocket and heavy artillery systems."

He said the pro-Russian rebels had withdrawn a "significant amount" of heavy weapons as well.

"There is a cease-fire or there isn't. It depends on how you look at it," Poroshenko said.

Pulling back weapons to create a large buffer zone was a key point of the cease-fire agreement reached on February 12 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

As a result of the cease-fire, Poroshenko said Kyiv had "managed to halt the offensive drive of the aggressor."

On the other hand, Poroshenko also said 64 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed since the cease-fire came into force on February 15.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since the conflict between government troops and separatists erupted in April.

Poroshenko said that 1,549 Ukrainian servicemen -- from the armed forces, National Guard, Interior Ministry, border guards, and Security Service -- have been killed.

At the White House, President Barack Obama and European Council President Donald Tusk agreed Brussels and Washington were united in their determination to maintain sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

The United States and Europe have warned Russia that the West could levy additional sanctions if Moscow continues to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Tusk, however, indicated earlier in a New York Times interview that Europe was not yet ready to tighten current sanctions.

Obama also said that Europe and the United States need to work to ensure there is effective international monitoring of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa and AFP
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