KIEV (Reuters) - A separatist representative to east Ukraine peace talks said on Wednesday an agreement signed with Kiev this week to withdraw more weapons could mean an end to the war with the Ukrainian government, separatist website DAN reported.
It said rebel leaders had signed the agreement to extend a pull-back of weapons to include tanks and smaller weapons systems, as part of a 12-point peace plan designed to end a conflict that has killed over 8,000 people since April 2014.
“This could mean the end of the war,” rebel representative Denis Pushilin was quoted as saying.
The agreement with the government was struck on Tuesday during talks in Minsk, Belarus, on the ceasefire, which has seen regular accusations of violations from both sides.
After signing the agreement, separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko struck a more cautious note on the peace process.
“Allow us to doubt the sincerity of the Ukrainian side’s intentions ... Kiev has repeatedly broken its promises,” DAN quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military repeated accusations that separatists were flouting the peace deal on parts of the frontline.
“Despite the ceasefire, the enemy, as previously, is keeping significant forces in forward positions, including heavy weapons, in defiance of the Minsk agreements,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a briefing.
The violence in Ukraine’s separatist eastern territories has ebbed in recent weeks to its lowest point since the ceasefire was signed in February, but Western diplomats say the 12-point peace plan is far from fully implemented.
Even after the lighter weapons are withdrawn, the sides still need to end a deadlock over the ground rules for local elections.
Reporting by Alessandra Prentice, editing by Larry King