Preparation for the withdrawal of forces and equipment from around the city of Zolote is successfully underway from a technical point of view, but the disengagement cannot begin due to ongoing shelling by the separatists, said Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk, as cited by Interfax-Ukraine.
“From a technical point of view, the preparation for disengagement in this area has been going quite successfully, but the shelling is not allowing us to start it. I note once again that the disengagement of forces and equipment can only start after seven days of compliance with the silence regime at the site where it is envisaged,” he noted after a work visit to the region where the Joint Forces Operation is being conducted.
According to the minister, there are plans to create a coordination center in Zolote that will facilitate the consolidation of the activities of members of the local administration, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Police and other structures, as well as the prompt resolution of problematic issues, if necessary.
In Stanytsia Luhanska, where the first step towards disengagement of forces was made in summer, the situation is peaceful, there is no shelling, and police are maintaining public order, the minister noted.
“Our troops in their positions are observing, maintaining combat readiness. If there is provocation or the situation deteriorates, they are ready to act accordingly,” Zahorodniuk added.
An agreement was reached in Minsk on October 1 to disengage forces in Petrivske and Zolote, two cities in Ukraine’s Luhansk province. The withdrawal of forces was meant to begin on October 7, but it was postponed due to shelling by pro-Russian militants.
It is now necessary to wait an additional 7 days in order to confirm that both sides have serious intentions. If the disengagement of forces begins but is not complied with, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will return to their positions.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin has a certain amount of influence over the militants in the Donbas, but cannot guarantee their withdrawal.