Ceasefire takes hold in Ukraine after deal
A ceasefire took hold last night in eastern Ukraine after the president's representative signed a deal with Russian-backed separatists in an effort to bring an end to nearly five months of fighting.
President Petro Poroshenko said he ordered government forces to stop hostilities at 6pm local time following a protocol signed by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the rebels and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe at talks in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.
"Human life is of the highest value, and we need to do everything that is possible and impossible to stop the bloodshed and end people's suffering," Poroshenko said.
The Donetsk separatists said on Twitter that they also have ceased fire.
After announcing the cease-fire, negotiators met for two more hours and agreed on the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, the release of prisoners and the delivery of humanitarian aid to devastated cities.
Mikhail Zurabov, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine who also signed the deal, described the exchange of lists of more than 1,000 prisoners from each side as a "breakthrough".
Poroshenko said a prisoner exchange could begin as early as today and international monitors from the OSCE would keep watch over the ceasefire.
With this deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin may avert new western sanctions.