Ukraine’s army and Kremlin-backed separatists are set on Friday to complete the last phase of a troop pullback in the war-torn east in a key step towards a high-stakes summit with Russia.
The long-awaited move is a precondition for the first face-to-face talks between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
The summit, whose date has yet to be set, will be mediated by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
As long as no ceasefire violations take place in the area, the withdrawal was due to start around noon, 10:00GMT, in the Donetsk region between the villages of Petrivske in the separatist-controlled zone and Bogdanivka in Kiev-controlled territory, Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Ageyev told AFP.
But in a sign of persisting tensions, a Kiev soldier was killed on Thursday in the Donetsk region although not in the disengagement area, the army said.
The warring sides held two similar pullbacks in June and October.
The withdrawal of forces would be the ‘final precondition’ for organising the four-way summit, Ukraine’s foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said this week.
He has expressed hope that the meeting, the first at such a high level since 2016, could take place in Paris in November.
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