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24 Feb, 2015 11:44

E. Ukraine artillery withdrawal focus of FMs meeting – as Poroshenko buys UAE weapons

While the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were meeting in Paris to talk about the Eastern Ukraine peace settlement, it was revealed that the Ukrainian president has struck a deal on arms supplies from the UAE.

The four ministers agreed on the need for the ceasefire to be respected, as well as on the need to extend the OSCE mission in Eastern Ukraine, reinforcing it with more funding, personnel and equipment.

It’s important for Kiev troops and the rebels to start withdrawing heavy weapons right now, without waiting for the time “when not a single shot is fired,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting. He added that his German and French counterparts thought it a positive development that the Donetsk and the Lugansk rebels had started to pull their artillery back.

'Good meeting' #NormandyFour call for artillery withdrawal from E.#Ukriane frontlines http://t.co/8BRJg9sUgIpic.twitter.com/46CU6cnXhH

— RT (@RT_com) February 24, 2015

The situation has significantly improved, that was acknowledged by my partners,” Lavrov said. “However, sporadic violations are being registered by the OSCE observers.”

The withdrawal of heavy weaponry by Kiev troops and the rebels is part of the ceasefire deal struck in Minsk earlier in February. The Donetsk militia has announced it is complying.

Today at 9 am our units continued the pullback of heavy weaponry from the separation line," said Eduard Basurin, spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Tass news agency reported.

READ MORE: Contested Debaltsevo area remains a stumbling block in E.Ukraine

He specified that some 96 D-30 howitzers are to be withdrawn from Debaltsevo, Gorlovka, Donetsk and Telmanovo.

Militia units of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic promised to follow suit at noon Tuesday.

"Today at 12 noon rocket artillery will be particularly withdrawn in the area of Debaltsevo," said a deputy commander of the Lugansk militia, Vitaly Kiselev.

OCSE could not so far confirm the withdrawal of heavy weaponry by the rebel forces.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE observer mission in eastern Ukraine, said he could not comment until receiving monitors' reports at the end of the day, according to AP.

Paris #Ukraine talks have started: FMs #Steinmeier@LaurentFabius@PavloKlimkin+#Lavrov now convening #MinskAgreementpic.twitter.com/RXzBZ4k5gU

— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) February 24, 2015

Meanwhile, Kiev has refused to start the pullback, blaming the rebels for ceasefire violations.

“Our positions are being shelled non-stop,” a spokesman for the military operation in eastern Ukraine, Anatoly Stelmakh, told RIA Novosti. “So the first stage is at a least a day-long ceasefire. Only then will we speak of some kind of weapons withdrawal.”

Aleksander Lentsov, the Russian representative in the coordination group that oversees the weapons withdrawal, said the Ukrainian army has not established the exact framework for taking out its arms, and has only agreed to proceed after a certain date.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andrey Lysenko said that two days of ceasefire are necessary for Kiev's troops to start the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

The Donetsk and Lugansk militia denied accusations of non-compliance with the ceasefire. They say they are only responding to fire from Kiev troops.

READ MORE: US arming Kiev would ‘explode’ situation in E. Ukraine – Russian Foreign Ministry

UAE to send weapons to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has meanwhile reached an agreement on weapons supplies from the United Arab Emirates. That’s according to a Facebook post by advisor to Ukrainian Interior Minister, Anton Gerashchenko.

The deal was struck with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Post by Anton Gerashchenko.

It’s worth emphasizing that unlike Europeans and Americans, the Arabs aren’t afraid of Putin’s threats of a third world war starting in case of arms and ammunition supplies to Ukraine,” Gerashchenko wrote.

He also said he believed the UAE blamed Russia for the drop in oil prices. “So, this is going to be their little revenge,” the adviser said. Gerashchenko said the types of weapons to be delivered and the volume of the supplies could not be disclosed.

The UAE supplying weapons to Ukraine could be part of a US covert operation, former US diplomat James Jatras told RT.

This discussion in Washington about supplying weapons has been going on for some time. Usually that indicates that some kind of a covert program is already in operation and that we already are supplying some weapons directly,” he said.

Jatras added that it is hard to believe that UAE would sell these weapons to Ukraine “without a green light from Washington.”

“There is a lot of worry in Washington that our European satellites are slipping the leash and that this Minsk 2 agreement represents a possibility of a peace settlement that is really advantageous to the anti-Kiev forces in Lugansk and Donetsk. And one way to shake that up is to pour some weapons in there,” Jatras said.

Commenting on Poroshenko’s statement that the weapons are not intended for offensive use, Jatras said that “the notion that there are offensive and defensive weapons is really absurd here” and that supplying the weapons is “clearly designed to give Kiev some kind of military option that Kiev does not currently have, and of course it has an offensive intent behind it.”