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Ukrainian Forces, Russia-Backed Separatists Begin Pullback From Donetsk Village

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OSCE observers conduct operations in eastern Ukraine ahead of an expected withdrawal of forces from Petrivske.

Ukraine's military says its forces and Russia-backed separatists have begun a planned pullback in a village in eastern Ukraine, a key condition that could lead to a peace summit.

"The disengagement of troops and weaponry has begun" at the village of Petrivske in the Donetsk region, a senior Ukrainian army representative, Bogdan Bondar, told reporters at the scene on November 9.

The troop pullback in the village of Petrivske is one of a series of confidence-building measures that could pave the way for a four-way summit between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany aimed at ending the simmering Donbas conflict.

Separatists in Donetsk also confirmed the start of the withdrawal of forces.

The two sides signalled their intention to withdraw by firing flares, an AFP correspondent reported from the scene.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are observing the disengagement which could take several days to complete.

Kyiv has said the third such withdrawal -- from the village of Petrivske -- will mean that Ukraine has fulfilled its requirements for such a summit to take place.

The withdrawal of troops from Petrivske, originally set for October 9, was delayed after fighting there resumed.

The agreement to resume the four-way talks, known as the Normandy format, states that fighting must cease for seven days before the withdrawal process can begin.

No date has been set for the talks, which are to be mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting the separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.

Both sides have already withdrawn from Stanytsya Luhanska, a strategic crossing point in Luhansk region where a damaged bridge is being repaired over a river to ease pedestrian traffic in the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

"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 Stanytsya 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."

The OSCE has been monitoring the conflict, including the withdrawal of forces.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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