Ukraine sets new truce date with rebels

New ceasefire beginning on December 9 will seek to establish a buffer zone between rebels and government troops.

Several truce deals announced in the course of the war were broken by both rebels and Ukrainian soldiers [AFP]

Ukraine has announced a truce with pro-Russian rebels beginning on December 9 under the terms of an agreement aimed at ending one of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts in decades.

The announcement on Thursday provides the latest glimmer of hope that fighting across Ukraine’s eastern region was nearing to a close after eight months that saw 4,300 people killed and shattered Moscow’s ties with the West.

The news also comes as members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continue to meet on Friday, in the Swiss port city of Basel to address the Ukraine crisis.

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

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.

But Purgin refused to say whether he thought this agreement would hold.

Buffer zone

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.

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 Swiss president and OSCE chairman Didier Burkhalter have also said that “there are a number of different points that are not clear for the time being” regarding the date of the truce.

Source: News Agencies