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Ukraine, rebels say pullback in the east is completed

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian military and Russia-backed separatist rebels have completed a pullback of troops and weapons from an area in eastern Ukraine embroiled in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people, officials said Monday.

The disengagement near Petrivske that began Saturday followed a recent similar withdrawal in another section of the frontline, where separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting since 2014. Ukraine's military said Ukrainian forces completed the pullback in Petrivske at midday Monday.

The disengagement of forces in eastern Ukraine was seen as a key step to pave the way for a summit of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on ending the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed plans for holding the summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call Monday, according to the Kremlin.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the summit could be held before the year's end but wouldn't comment on a possible date. "The summit should produce new positive results," Ushakov said at a briefing. "It's necessary to take the first steps toward the implementation of the agreement reached in Minsk."

Germany and France sponsored a 2015 agreement signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk that envisaged broad autonomy for the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and an amnesty for the rebels — provisions that were never implemented because they were resented by many in Ukraine.

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