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Ukraine President Orders Cease-Fire In Eastern Conflict Zone

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (file photo)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered the military to implement a cease-fire and weapons pullback in the conflict region in eastern Ukraine beginning on April 1.

Poroshenko made the announcement on March 30 in Malta, where he was meeting with European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Poroshenko said that he is "not very optimistic" that the Russia-supported rebels controlling parts of two eastern Ukrainian regions will abide by the agreement, which was reached in Minsk on March 29.

According to the Russian state news agency TASS, a spokesman for the militants in Luhansk said on March 30 that his forces are "always ready to ensure the cease-fire."

During a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg pressed Russia to compel the militants to implement the cease-fire and withdraw their heavy weaponry.

He also asked Moscow to ensure that international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have complete access to the conflict area.

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, and TASS