Ukraine, Pro-Russians Announce New Truce

Ukraine, Pro-Russians Announce New TruceUkraine, Pro-Russians Announce New Truce

Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels said Thursday they had agreed to halt fire on December 9 under the terms of a truce aimed at ending one of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts in decades.

The unexpected announcement provides the latest glimmer of hope that fighting across the eastern rustbelt of the ex-Soviet nation was nearing to a close after eight months that saw 4,300 people killed and shattered Moscow’s ties with the West.

The truce date disclosed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and two top separatist leaders was apparently agreed -- but never disclosed -- with the help of Russian and European envoys in the Belarussian capital Minsk on September 5 according to the AFP.

Poroshenko said Kiev had prepared “measures that should ensure the implementation of the Minsk Agreement concerning a Day of Silence that is due to begin on December 9.”

A source in Poroshenko’s office said the president’s statement meant Ukraine would begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the eastern frontline on December 10 -- as long as the separatists also observed the truce.

The parliament speaker of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic confirmed the latest ceasefire was part of the Minsk deal.

“The (Minsk) group, which included our and Ukrainian military officials, as well as OSCE and Russian mediators, agreed to halt fire on December 9,” Andrei Purgin told Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency.

Several truce deals announced in the course of the war were broken within days by both rebels and Ukrainian soldiers who refused to listen to their political leaders.

The September 5 agreement was meant to establish a 30-kilometre (18-mile) buffer zone between the fighters and grant limited self-rule to the separatists.