Ukraine signs ceasefire deal with rebels

Representatives of the warring parties have signed a protocol declaring ceasefire at 1500 GMT on Friday

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Ukraine has signed an initial truce deal with pro-Russian separatist rebels, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said on Friday.

Representatives of the warring parties have signed a protocol declaring ceasefire at 1500 GMT on Friday, Heidi Tagliavini, an OSCE representative at talks in Minsk told reporters.

Poroshenko added that he has given the order for military commanders to cease their fire on 1500 GMT.

The talks in Minsk, capital of Belarus, involve former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and leaders of the self-proclaimed “people’s republics” the eastern Ukrainian cities in Donetsk and Luhansk.

They come after Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward a seven-point peace plan.

However, the rebels, who have been battling Ukrainian government forces in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine since April, are still seeking to split from Ukraine despite the ceasefire deal, the leader of rebel-held region of Luhansk said.

“The ceasefire does not mean the end of [our] policy to split [from Ukraine],” Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, told reporters.

The West accuses Russia of sending arms and troops to back the rebels in eastern Ukraine, which the Kremlin denies.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called Friday for the United States and Europe to act as guarantors to a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels.

“It must be supported by the United States and the EU. We will not manage with Russia on our own... we need guarantees,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting moments before rebels announced that a truce deal had been agreed, Agence France-Presse reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was hopeful but sceptical about the ceasefire and urged European allies to agree on new sanctions against Russia that could be suspended if the peace plan holds.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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