ARTEMIVSK - Kiev said Friday it had withdrawn all its Uragan multiple rocket launchers from the main conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, in compliance with a ceasefire agreement with pro-Russian rebels.

Two of the imposing Uragan (Hurricane) rocket launchers - equipped with 16 launch tubes for 220mm rockets - were being readied for loading on to a train alongside at least ten howitzer cannons in the eastern town of Artemivsk, an AFP photographer reported.

The headquarters of Kiev's eastern military operations said on its Facebook page that all the Uragan had been pulled back from their positions, following the withdrawal of smaller calibre systems such as Grad missile launchers. The army still has to move back its Tochka short-range ballistic missile systems as part of the deal signed in Minsk in February under which both sides agreed to move heavy artillery 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the frontline in order to create a secure buffer zone.

Such notoriously imprecise weapons have caused most of the civilian destruction in the nearly 11-month conflict that the UN says has left 6,000 dead, and their use on both sides has been slammed by human rights organisations.

While both sides say they are complying with the pullback of heavy weapons in the oft-violated ceasefire, they accuse each other of only pretending to do so.

The security headquarters in Mariupol, a large city in southern Donetsk region still controlled by Kiev, accused the rebels in a statement of pulling back their equipment only to "return it shortly thereafter."  And the defence minister of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk People's Republic Eduard Basurin was quoted as saying by Russian agencies that Ukraine was carrying out "covert rotation" of its forces.

Ukraine and the EU want to boost the presence of international OSCE monitors, whose mission constantly reports being restricted from accessing certain areas, in a bid to better observe the weapons withdrawal. Ukraine on Friday reported no military casualties in the east but accused rebels of firing on its positions.

The army has said 48 troops have been killed since the ceasefire went into effect on February 15, but figures are likely to be higher, particularly after intense clashes in Debaltseve, a key railway hub south of Artemivsk which Kiev ended up ceding to separatists on February 18.

A representative of Ukraine's security services (SBU) Markiyan Lubkivsky wrote on Facebook Friday that the rebels had handed over the bodies of 50 soldiers and volunteers who had died in Debaltseve and other combat zones.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko has decided to end a hunger strike after going more than 80 days without food to protest her detention in a Russian jail, one of her lawyers said on Friday. "She has taken the decision," lawyer Mark Feigin told AFP.

"She had been on the brink," he said, adding that the pilot's weakening health had seen her blood pressure fall sharply while she was suffering seizures and vomited even after drinking water. "I am happy that Nadezhda listened to my advice to end her hunger strike," the lawyer separately wrote on Twitter, using the Russian version of her name. The 33-year-old helicopter navigator, who has been charged with involvement in the deaths of two Russian reporters in a mortar attack during the war in east Ukraine, has been held in a Moscow jail for nearly nine months.

Savchenko denies the charges and says she was kidnapped and brought to Russia. She had been on hunger strike since December 13. Savchenko agreed to eat some chicken soup on Thursday as calls mounted for her release, with warnings from the EU that she risked "permanent damage to her health or death."

Feigin told AFP that Savchenko decided to start eating again after authorities threatened to transfer her to a civilian hospital and force-feed her there.  "And she would not be able to resist. That was the choice," he said, noting that she could not consume normal food and was now on diet of pureed food.

Another of Savchenko's lawyers, Nikolai Polozov, said she would not be able to start eating solid food for about a month. He said Savchenko had halted the hunger strike just before she hit a "point of no return" which would mark irreversible health damage, or worse. "Three weeks ago she was examined by German doctors. They said the point of no return would be around March 8."