PETRIVSKE, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels began withdrawing from a village in the disputed Donbass region on Saturday, one of a series of measures that could pave the way for a summit between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed fighters in the eastern region has killed more than 13,000 since 2014, with both sides accusing each other of violating a ceasefire that was agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk in 2015.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, which prompted Western sanctions.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy won a landslide election victory in April promising to end the simmering conflict and Kiev has said its troop withdrawal from the village of Petrivske would mean it had fulfilled all necessary conditions it needs to for a peace summit to take place.
Moscow has blamed Kiev for delaying the four-way summit.
“I hope that we will not see any new attempts by Kiev to disrupt the implementation of the agreements on the withdrawal of forces,” Borys Gryzlov, Russia’s envoy to a working group on the conflict, said.