Truce efforts continue in E. Ukraine despite new deaths

Truce efforts continue in E. Ukraine despite new deaths
# 27 February 2015 20:18 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The Ukrainian government is continuing its efforts to secure a lasting truce between government troops and pro-independence insurgents in eastern regions despite new deaths in the violent conflict, the military said Friday, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Three Ukrainian servicemen were killed in fighting with rebels over the last 24 hours, which marked the first deaths in the confrontation in the past three days, said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military.

Besides, he added, seven government soldiers were wounded.

Despite the new casualties, government forces continued to withdraw artillery away from the front line of fighting in an attempt to restore stability in the conflict-torn areas, he said.

"The pullout of heavy weapons is under way, but our units that have small arms and light weapons remain at their positions," Lysenko said.

He noted that the Ukrainian army fears a new rebel offensive in the direction of three government-controlled towns in Lugansk region and the strategic port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said government forces have been put on high alert over a "military threat" for the country, which "would persist even if a long-lasting peace is established" in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

"Our servicemen stand ready to return their weapons to the former positions at any time to repulse the enemy," Poroshenko said.

On Thursday, government forces started to withdraw heavy weapons from the front line as the truce, which came into effect on Feb. 15, did appear to hold up in most parts of eastern Ukraine.

Insurgents have been pulling back their weapons from the combat area since Tuesday in line with the cease-fire deal reached in Minsk, capital of Belarus, on Feb. 12 by Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.