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Full, comprehensive ceasefire begins in Ukraine

Ukraine’s government forces and Russia-backed separatists seek to end years of hostilities in the country’s east.

Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists have begun a full and comprehensive ceasefire in a new bid to try and end years of hostilities in the war-torn country’s east.

The truce, which came into force at midnight on Monday, had been agreed last week by negotiators from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The Ukrainian army said an order had been issued to comply with a “full and comprehensive ceasefire”. Hours later it accused the separatists of having violated the truce.

“Unfortunately, from the enemy side there were shots fired at 00:20 (21:20 GMT) and 00:45 (21:45 GMT),” Ukrainian General Volodymyr Kravchenko told a news conference, according to comments carried by state news agency Ukrinform.

The Ukrainian military said in a statement that the shooting occurred near the town of Uzhivka, south of the rebel stronghold city of Donetsk. Kravchenko said that the Ukrainian military was continuing to observe the ceasefire.  

He said enemy shots had also been registered at about 9am (06:00 GMT), near the town of Novomikhailovka, south-west of Donetsk. He said the shots had not endangered Ukrainian military forces.

Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic denied the accusations, saying in a statement that it was “strictly abiding by the obligations”.

Under the terms of the agreement, the use of any weapons, including small arms, is prohibited.

Since the conflict broke out between Kyiv forces and pro-Moscow separatists in 2014, there have been numerous attempts to end the fighting but those ceasefires never held long enough to pave the way for peace talks.

Deadly conflict

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russian leader Vladimir Putin to discuss the ceasefire agreement and steps to end the war.

Putin stressed the importance of implementing a peace deal agreed in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015, the Kremlin said.

Ukraine has been fighting separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.

Kyiv and its Western allies accuse Moscow of supporting separatists with troops and arms, a claim the Kremlin has always denied.

Four-way talks between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine seek the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of Kyiv’s control over its borders, wider autonomy for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the holding of local elections.

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