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Separatists In Ukraine Say They're Pulling Heavy Weapons Back

A child plays near Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday. Separatists say they've begun to withdraw heavy weapons from the front line — a claim that monitors say they can't verify.

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

"I believe such (an) apocalyptic scenario is unlikely, and hope that it will never get to that point," Putin said, according to CNN.

From Moscow, NPR's Corey Flintoff reports:

"A separatist military spokesman told reporters that heavy weapons would be pulled back about 30 miles from the front line. If it's true, the move could be a step toward implementing a cease fire agreement that was supposed to take effect nearly ten days ago.

"The Ukrainian military says separatist and Russian forces continue to attack government positions, especially near the southern port city of Mariupol. The Ukrainian side said Monday that it would not withdraw weapons until the separatists and Russians stopped shooting.

"The separatists deny that they are violating the cease fire.

"International monitors say they have not been able to monitor the truce in critical areas."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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