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Ukraine Rebels Claim Readiness To Pull Back Tanks, Smaller Arms

Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine say they are prepared to pull back smaller-caliber weapons from much of the line of contact with Kyiv’s forces.

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, a self-proclaimed leader of the rebels operating in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, said on July 18 that his forces are ready to pull back tanks and armored vehicles outfitted with weapons under 100mm 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the front line.

A spokesman for the Donetsk separatists, Denis Pushilin, called the move a “unilateral step” ahead of a July 21 meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk focused on the implementation of February cease-fire.

Three civilians and one Ukrainian soldier have been reported killed over the past day in fighting in the country’s east. Ukrainian authorities and the rebels traded accusations of responsibility for the deaths.

More than 6,500 people have been killed since fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatists erupted in April 2014.

Kyiv and the West accuse Russia backing the rebels, a charge Moscow denies despite mounting evidence of such support.

Based on reporting by AP, Interfax, and AFP

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