The process of bilateral withdrawal of forces began at 12:00 local time near the Zolote-4 settlement in stretch No. 2 in the Luhansk region, Ukraine’s Joint Forces Command announced on Facebook on Tuesday.
“This was possible because the silence regime had been complied with for the last week,” the post states. The post emphasizes that the start of the disengagement has been confirmed by representatives of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. However, “in no event will the government disregard the local population, because all of the actions are being taken with one goal – security in the mentioned disengagement stretches”.
The war in the Donbas can only be ended through diplomacy, and Ukraine needs a strong position and support to do this, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on October 29 while speaking at the “RE: Think. Invest in Ukraine” forum in Mariupol.
“It can only be made possible through diplomatic means. And in order to do this, Ukraine must have a strong position and support. Be a state that is respected, that is listened to. Be flourishing, independent and successful,” the president’s press service cites him as saying.
Zelensky remarked that the “primary task is to end the war in the east and restore all Ukrainian territories”.
“After all, peace in Ukraine is a pledge of security and stability in Europe and in the world, and Ukraine’s success is all of your success,” the president told the forum’s participants.
Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine would do everything necessary to continue working with the International Monetary Fund and to support economic growth. He said that one of the government’s current priorities is a land reform.
“The government has put forward a bill to introduce a free land market, which will boost the agro-industrial sector and attract investments and modern technologies,” Ukraine’s head of state said while in Mariupol.
On October 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Zolote as part of an official trip to the Luhansk region. The withdrawal of forces and heavy weapons, as agreed in Minsk, was meant to begin there, but it has been opposed by veterans and volunteers from the Anti-Terrorist Operation, who believe that withdrawal is tantamount to surrender. The veterans and volunteers recently uploaded a video of a heated argument between one of them and President Zelensky.
“I came and told you to withdraw the weapons. You’re putting the blame on me. You can’t make any ultimatums to me… Listen, I’m the president of this country. I’m 42 years old. I’m not some schmuck,” said Zelensky. The volunteer who was arguing with him is Borys Hanza, who set out for the front line as an 18 year-old, and was involved in the fighting around Ilovaisk, Marinka, Shyrokyne and Mariupol between 2014 and 2017.
The Joint Forces Operation (JFO) headquarters insisted that the armed veterans and volunteers are in Zolote illegally, because they are not active members of the security departments or Armed Forces of Ukraine and are not authorized to operate in the JFO area.
The preparation to disengage forces near Petrovske (Donetsk region) and Zolote (Luhansk region) is not the first attempt to bring about a sustainable disengagement of forces along the demarcation line in the Donbas. However, after a successful start, the militants are returning to their positions, and the Kremlin has already said that Moscow cannot guarantee the withdrawal of terrorist Russian forces.