Kyiv Starts Troop Withdrawal From Eastern Ukraine Town

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystayko said a planned troop withdrawal has started in the town of Zolote in the eastern Luhansk region, where Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for more than five years.”The withdrawal is taking place right now, we are beginning [the process] today,” Prystayko said at an investment forum in the city of Mariupol, on Tuesday, adding that the process was delayed due to preparations by the OSCE mission.Prystayko also said that after the withdrawal process in Zolote is over, Kyiv will start withdrawing its forces from the nearby town of Petrivske.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who rose to the presidency earlier this year on promises to end the conflict, accepted the withdrawal plan under the so-called Steinmeier Formula, earlier in October.The Steinmeier Formula lays the groundwork for reinvigorating the larger peace deals known loosely as the Minsk Accords, and the first major international summit on the Ukraine conflict in three years.FILE – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, third right, attends a meeting with Ukrainian top military officials in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 7, 2019. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)OppositionZelenskiy’s support of the plan has drawn opposition from right-wing groups, some veteran groups, and activists in Ukraine.Zelenskiy told reporters on October 10 that the plan proposed in 2016 by then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier would be enshrined in a new “special status” law for the separatist-controlled territories and drafted only after a summit of Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia — the so-called Normandy format — takes place.Prystayko said on October 29 that he hopes the Normandy talks will take place in November.Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a separatist movement in Ukraine’s easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk after Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin president, was overthrown and Western-leaning Petro Poroshenko was elected president the same year.More than 13,000 people have died from the conflict since it began April 2014.Moscow has repeatedly denied its role in funding, arming, or training the rebels despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the conflict in Ukraine’s east is a civil war. 

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