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Smoke rises over a residential area in the north of the rebel-held city of Donetsk earlier today. AP/Press Association Images

Rebels in Ukraine ready to carry out their side of peace deal, but "with great difficulty"

While Ukrainian military units are appearing to pull back, rebels have said they are willing to carry out their side of the deal.

THE UKRAINIAN MILITARY has said it was preparing to pull back its guns from the frontline in the separatist east as a fragile truce with pro-Russian insurgents appeared to be taking hold.

Across the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, the level of violence appears to have subsided although Kiev said it lost two soldiers in overnight raids by “armed gangs”.

The deaths bring to 39 the number of Ukrainian troops and civilians killed since the warring sides signed a 5 truce on 5 September that NATO’s top military commander warned at the weekend was holding “in name only”.

But hopes of peace gathered pace after the ceasefire was reinforced Saturday by another deal signed in Minsk calling for the withdrawal of fighters to allow the creation of a 30-kilometre buffer zone.

The “deputy prime minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrei Purgin, said the rebels were ready to carry out their side of the bargain even if it was “with great difficulty”.

“Show me a conflict that stopped simply because some document was signed. That just doesn’t happen,” he told AFP, but added that there was progress.

There is a chance. We need to work on it and then there will be an even greater chance.

President Petro Poroshenko also remarked Sunday on the apparent “de-escalation” but warned that Ukraine would defend itself with renewed vigour should the peace plan collapse.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Families of German victims of MH17 are to sue Ukraine >

More: ‘Buffer zone’ to separate troops and miliants created during Ukraine peace talks >

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