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New Cease-Fire Agreed For Ukraine, But Tensions Still High


 A Ukrainian serviceman rests at the front.
A Ukrainian serviceman rests at the front.

MUNICH -- A new cease-fire has been agreed to for eastern Ukraine, but some Russia-backed separatists could not say if they would respect the fighting halt, and a Ukrainian leader said he was not pleased with the results of a four-party meeting in Munich.

The cease-fire was announced on February 18 by Russia and was brokered together with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany, and France after talks at the Munich Security Conference.

The cease-fire is scheduled to go into effect on February 20.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the agreement a "positive" development, but he also acknowledged the lack of "major progress" at the meeting.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters the aim was “to do what has long been agreed but never implemented: To withdraw the heavy weapons from the region, to secure them, and enable the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors to control where they are kept."

Russian-backed separatists on the ground would not confirm they were planning to respect the cease-fire.

Some of them said it was not feasible for it to come into force so soon.

"There has been artillery fire all day," Eduard Basurin, a senior separatist, told AFP on February 18.

"What truce are they talking about? I don't see the point in declaring a truce."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin confirmed the cease-fire agreement but warned it must become more than a "political slogan."

He told reporters he was "not at all" pleased with the meeting.

"This has to be the real situation -- and if that's not the case, we will have to have fresh negotiations," he told Ukrainian reporters in Munich.

He added that no "powerful results" where achieved at the Munich meeting of the so-called Normandy Format, consisting of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France.

Russia-backed separatists control areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine’s east nearly three years after the start of their war against Kyiv’s forces that has killed more than 9,750.

Fighting has intensified this month, resulting in the deaths of about 30 people.

Russia also annexed Ukraine's Black Sea region of Crimea in 2014.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Steve Gutterman, AFP, and Reuters
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