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Ukraine, Russia Agree To New Cease-Fire At Start Of School Year

Students arrive for the first day of school in Pervomayske, near the Donetsk airport, on September 1, 2015.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine starting on August 23 at the beginning of the school year and got unanimous support from Russia, Germany, France, and the United States.

The proposal was made late on August 22 in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancelor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who all voiced their strong support for a lasting cease-fire to allow children in eastern Ukraine to attend school, the Kremlin and Poroshenko's press service said after the call.

The cease-fire will be announced on August 23, according to the Kremlin and Poroshenko's press service. Macron's office and the German cabinet office also issued statements announcing and supporting the cease-fire.

Poroshenko's office said the leaders hope the truce "will lead to sustainable improvement of the security situation to benefit schoolchildren and the entire civilian population of Donbas."

Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine, had earlier expressed his support for the proposal in comments to the Baltic News Service as he visited Lithuania on August 22. Volker is due to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on August 23.

The cease-fire for the back-to-school season "seems like a very good idea. We would obviously fully support that and hope the sides could do that," Volker told the news service.

Volker also commented for the first time on his meeting on August 21 with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov, in which Surkov had claimed the two discussed some "fresh ideas" for achieving peace in Ukraine.

"Where I think we agreed is that the current situation, the status quo, is not good for anybody," Volker said in the Baltic interview. "What we need to do is to take a fresh look at how to increase security in Ukraine for the people that live there."

Volker will be joined on his visit to Kyiv on August 23 by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Poroshenko announced his plan to call for the cease-fire at a ceremony opening a renovated musical theater in Syevyerodonetsk in the Luhansk region on August 22. He said he wanted to demonstrate Kyiv's desire for peace.

Several cease-fire deals have been announced and fizzled since Russia-backed separatists seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which border Russia, in 2014.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, TASS, KUNA, and Interfax
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