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February 23, 2015

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Bomb blast kills 2 marchers in Kiev

TWO people were killed and about eight others were injured in a bomb explosion yesterday at a march in Ukraine’s second-largest city that was commemorating the first anniversary of the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych, officials said.

The Interior Ministry said the blast was due to an “unknown explosive device” and was being considered a terrorist act.

The violence came as Ukraine continued to be riven by tension and bloodshed stemming from Yanukovych’s fall a year ago. The Ukrainian parliament voted on February 22, 2014 to remove the Russia-friendly president, following months of increasingly violent protests in the capital, Kiev.

The Crimean peninsula, where residents largely regarded his downfall as a coup, was annexed by Russia a month later.

Then armed rebels opposed to the new authorities in Kiev took over large parts of two regions bordering Russia, setting off a war that has killed more than 5,600 people.

A peace plan envisioning a cease-fire and pullback of heavy weapons was signed 10 days ago, but violations continue.

Ukraine planned to begin pulling back heavy weaponry from the front lines yesterday in accordance with the peace plan, military spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko said, without giving further details.

Rebel spokesman Eduard Basurin said the pullback from both sides was set to take place between yesterday and March 7, but he did not specify whether rebels had made any moves yet.

Both sides are to pull back their big guns and rockets from 25 to 70 kilometers away from the conflict line — depending on the weapons’ size — creating a buffer zone of between 50 and 140km.

The zone was a main element of a peace agreement worked out in marathon negotiations 10 days ago in Minsk, Belarus. It also called for a full exchange of war captives.

Late on Saturday, 139 Ukrainian soldiers and 52 rebels were exchanged, but it remains unclear how many prisoners are on each side and when other swaps might take place.

The cease-fire was called into effect last Sunday. However, Ukraine said Russia-backed separatists violated the truce a dozen times during the night with artillery and rocket attacks and an attempt to storm a Ukrainian encampment. Lysenko said a serviceman was killed and three wounded over the past day.

Explosions were heard in the main rebel-held city Donetsk about dawn yesterday and a rebel website said several buildings in the city were damaged by artillery.

Among the attacks reported was an attempt to storm positions in Shyrokyne near the port city of Mariupol. The city remains of strategic concern to Ukraine because rebel seizure of it could open a land corridor between mainland Russia and the Crimean peninsula.


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