MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2020
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Ukraine delays troop pullback on fire
Journal Staff Report

KYIV, Oct. 7 - A planned pullback of Ukraine's forces in the rebel east due to begin Monday was delayed because of recent skirmishes, the nation's foreign minister said, the Associated Press reported.

Ukraine and Russia-backed separatist rebels have agreed to pull their forces from the front line in two areas to create a safe buffer zone. But the move was postponed because of recent shelling by separatists, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the five-year conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed rebels.

France and Germany brokered a 2015 peace agreement that envisaged granting a wide autonomy for the rebel east and holding a local election there, but the deal has stalled.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pushed for the vote in the east, but says a lasting cease-fire must come first.

Last week, Ukraine, Russia and Russia-backed separatists on Tuesday signed a tentative agreement on guidelines for holding the election.

The agreement triggered protests in the Ukrainian capital, where some described it as a major concession to Russia. About 15,000 demonstrators rallied on Kyiv's main square under placards "Shame!" and "No to capitulation!"

Zelenskiy strongly defended calling the vote in the east, pledging that it would adhere to Ukrainian laws and include candidates from Ukrainian political parties. He cast the deal as an intermediate step needed to organize a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to push for a peaceful settlement.

Prystaiko said negotiations are now underway to set the date for the four-way summit.

Zelenskiy was elected by a landslide in April on promises to combat the country's endemic corruption and end the spiraling war in the east.

Russia, hoping that the implementation of the Minsk agreement could open the door to easing the European sanctions, on Friday welcomed Zelenskiy's moves. (ap/ez)

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