Russian President Vladimir Putin says a ceasefire between warring Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine will take effect within the next few days.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday following marathon talks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, the Russian leader said he, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have agreed on the withdrawal of heavy weapons from Ukraine’s frontlines and a ceasefire to begin from February 15.
“We have managed to agree on the main things. We have agreed on a ceasefire,” Putin said, adding that Ukrainian authorities are still unwilling to enter face-to-face negotiations with the representatives of pro-Russia forces.
Heavy arms to be pulled out
Meanwhile, Poroshenko said heavy weaponry will be pulled out of Ukraine’s conflict-ridden eastern regions in 14 days.
Minsk agreement relief for Europe
France’s president also said a ceasefire deal and a “comprehensive political solution” agreed in Belarus on Thursday provides “serious hope, even if all is not done.”
“All matters are dealt with by this document signed by the contact group” and the pro-Russians, Hollande said.
Nine killed in fresh fighting
Vladyslav Seleznyov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s General Staff, told reporters in the capital, Kiev, on Thursday that nine people have lost their lives and 35 more sustained injuries in the fresh round of fighting in the highly volatile eastern Ukraine.
“As a result of shelling and clashes two Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 21 more were wounded,” he said.
According to the City Council of Donetsk, seven people were killed and 14 wounded during fighting in the restive 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 launched military operations to silence protests there in mid-April 2014.
Violence intensified in May last year 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 reportedly left 5,500 people dead, and more than 12,900 others injured.