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Ukraine crisis: Leaders agree peace roadmap



The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France announced that a ceasefire would begin on 15 February.

The deal also includes weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges, but key issues remain to be settled.

The pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have signed the agreement. Thousands of people died in almost a year of fighting in the region.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Minsk says the deal is very similar to a cease  fire agreed last September, which unraveled very quickly.

The latest agreement includes:
Ceasefire to begin at 00:01 local time on 15 February
Heavy weapons to be pulled out from conflict zones, beginning on 17 February and completed in two weeks
All prisoners to be released; amnesty for those involved in fighting
Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, weapons and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory. Disarmament of all illegal groups
Ukraine to allow resumption of normal life in rebel areas, by lifting restrictions
Constitutional reform to enable decentralisation for rebel regions by the end of 2015
Ukraine to control border with Russia if conditions met by the end of 2015
Rebels are surrounding Ukrainian government troops in the flashpoint town of Debaltseve

French President Francois Hollande said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would ask their European Union partners to support the deal at a summit later on Thursday.

Ms Merkel said there was now a "glimmer of hope" but big hurdles remained, while Mr Hollande said "the coming hours will be decisive".

Key unresolved issues include the status of Debaltseve, a government-held town surrounded by rebels that has been the focus of fierce fighting in recent days.

Further talks will also be held on self-rule in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions.


Analysis: Paul Kirby, BBC News online Europe editor

If the Minsk ceasefire failed last September, then how is this different and could it work?

For the rebels, the new ceasefire line is the same as the old one, so they lose some of the territory they have gained. But government forces must pull back from the current front line, and territory they have lost since January is confirmed as lost.

It separates the two sides but in some areas not by much, and again it falls on international monitors to observe the truce.

The real sticking point here is what happens to Debaltseve, where government forces are still under siege.

The only real buffer zone is for heavy weapons, with a minimum of 50km (30 miles) between rival forces' artillery (140km for rockets). France's President Hollande had proposed a demilitarised zone, but this is not it.

If the truce holds, then Ukraine gets its eastern border back. But only after elections in Donetsk and Luhansk held under Ukrainian law, and only after a comprehensive deal on reform and decentralisation.

There is a great deal that can go wrong before that.

Q&A: Why is east Ukraine hit by conflict?


Mr Putin told Russian television: "It wasn't the best night for me, but it's a good morning."

Mr Poroshenko - who had accused Russia of making "unacceptable" demands - said that "despite tension and pressure" Ukraine had not succumbed to "ultimatums".
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Mr Putin announced the ceasefire at a news conference in Minsk

Russia rejects accusations by Ukraine and Western powers that it is supplying weapons and personnel to the rebels - who are seeking independence for the areas they control.

Ongoing fighting

The separatists gave the agreement a cautious welcome.

In Luhansk, rebel leader Igor Plotnitskiy said: "We hope that thanks to our efforts today, Ukraine will change and stop firing at civilians, hospitals and socially important facilities."

But Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said Kiev would be to blame if the ceasefire collapsed and warned that there would "be no meetings and no new agreements".
The Ukrainian military has lost territory since the failed deal reached in September
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks and there has been a dramatic rise in civilian casualties

More than 5,400 people have been killed since the conflict began. There has been a dramatic rise in casualties in recent days, with 263 civilians killed in populated areas between 31 January and 5 February.

The BBC's James Reynolds in rebel-held Donetsk says he heard explosions there after the agreement was signed.

Overnight, Ukrainian military officials said 50 Russian tanks, as well as armoured vehicles and rocket launchers, had crossed into Ukraine on Thursday.

The US has refused to rule out supplying "lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

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