Kiev, pro-Russians agree on truce around Debaltseve
The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian forces have agreed on a brief humanitarian truce around the town of Debaltseve, as German and French leaders head to Moscow for peace talks.
The temporary truce has been in place since 0800 GMT on Friday and will last for seven hours to evacuate the civilian population from the area, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Pro-Russian forces have confirmed the humanitarian truce around Debaltseve, where they have nearly encircled Ukrainian forces.
Debaltseve remains a crucial rail hub linking the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are controlled by pro-Russians.
The eastern Ukrainian town has witnessed deadly fighting in recent weeks.
The brief truce comes as French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow after a visit to Ukraine to seek a peaceful solution to the surging conflict in the country.
International efforts to establish a truce in east Ukraine have failed so far with Western governments accusing Russia of supporting the armed militancy against the Ukrainian government. Moscow denies the charges, saying Kiev must stop suppression of ethnic Russian population in the area.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev’s military operation started in April 2014 in a bid to crush the protests.
Violence intensified in May 2014 after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The fighting has left more than 5,300 people dead and over 12,200 wounded, the United Nations says.