Ukrainian troops towed artillery away from the front line in the east on Thursday, a move that amounted to recognizing that a ceasefire meant to take effect on Feb. 15 was holding at last.
The military showed reporters seven or eight guns being towed away from the front at the village of Paraskoviyvka north of the government stronghold of Artemivsk. Earlier, Reuters journalists saw a larger convoy of 30-40 vehicles also towing guns away from the front on a highway.
The move was Kiev's most direct step to acknowledge that the ceasefire was finally holding, a week after suffering one of the worst defeats of the war at the hands of rebels who initially ignored the ceasefire to launch a major advance.
The pro-Russian rebels, who committed to the truce after their successful offensive, have been pulling back heavy weapons for two days, but Kiev had until now held back from implementing the withdrawal, arguing that fighting had not yet ceased.
However, the army reported no combat fatalities at the front for a second straight day on Thursday, the first time no troops have been killed since long before the French- and German-brokered truce was meant to take effect.
The withdrawal of artillery is "point two" of the peace agreement reached in the Belarus capital Minsk, so beginning it amounts to an acknowledgement that "point one" - the ceasefire itself - is being observed.