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Members of the Ukrainian armed forces drive a military vehicle at their position on the front line near the government-held town of Avdiyivka, Ukraine, February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Oleksandr Klymenko


By Rodrigo Campos

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The head of the OSCE said on Tuesday that a ceasefire in Ukraine was not looking "too good" and confirmation of the agreed removal of heavy artillery would have to wait until at least Wednesday.

"It looks like activities are continuing. I don't have a last-minute confirmation, but it doesn't look too good," said Lamberto Zannier, the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors the conflict.

"What we see is in various areas a continued 'kinetic activity,' as we call it, with light weapons mainly used, but in some cases also explosives, which means that they're also using mortars or some other heavier weapons that are a violation of (the) ceasefire," he told Reuters at the United Nations headquarters, where he had previously addressed the U.N. Security Council.

Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists had appeared to be respecting the new ceasefire attempt on Monday, with each side acknowledging that the other was complying.

However, Zannier said the situation remained "confused" and that there was a potential for a restart of another intense phase of combat.

He said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin confirmed to him that instructions were given to provide the OSCE with information on the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

"We are checking on that now," he said, but confirmation would not come until at least Wednesday.

"I don't have evidence or information being passed on the separatist side," Zannier added.

The ceasefire is another effort to honour the Minsk peace protocol: an agreement that has failed repeatedly since it was partially implemented two years ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin effectively withdrew from the agreement last week by signing an executive order recognising travel documents issued by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, a possible step towards recognising the region’s breakaway governments.

In recent weeks, the area around the government-held town of Avdiyivka has seen some of the heaviest artillery fire of the past two years, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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