Pro-Russian separatist ride on the 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile system (NATO reporting name is SA-8 Gecko) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Makeyevka on February 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV
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A senior pro-Russian rebel commander said separatist forces were due to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line in east Ukraine Sunday, a sign rebels may be prepared to halt their advance as part of an internationally brokered peace deal.Fighting has eased in many areas since a cease-fire came into effect a week ago, but the truce was shaken by the rebel capture on Wednesday of the town of Debaltseve, forcing a retreat by thousands of Ukrainian troops.But moves towards pulling back heavy weapons, together with the exchange of dozens of prisoners with Ukrainian government forces Saturday, could indicate the rebels intend to observe the truce more fully, having achieved a key military objective by seizing Debaltseve.The Ukrainian military said rebels had launched 12 attacks on government troop positions overnight, using artillery and mortar fire.
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