Ukraine rebels agree to new armistice

Kiev: A top Ukrainian insurgent said on Friday the rebels had agreed to an indefinite ceasefire negotiated by Russia and Ukraine that would go into effect this weekend.
The latest truce was hammered out with the help of European monitors and comes amid a surge in fighting that claimed the lives of eight Ukrainian soldiers this week.
Russia denies backing the rebels but the West and Kiev view them as Moscow proxies who initiated a 31-month conflict in Ukraine’s industrial east to throw Kiev’s pro-Western government off balance.
The truce is meant to come into force at midnight on Saturday (Friday 2200 GMT) and last through at least the holiday season. “The indefinite truce will go into effect at midnight,” the separatists’ main news site quoted rebel negotiator Denis Pushilin as saying.
Pushilin’s reported comment comes a day after Ukrainian army spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said that the military was ready to implement a peace plan in the war-torn east.
Ukraine has seen as a series of periodic truces that always ended up being eventually broken during a conflict that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
Russia denies playing a part in the conflict and calls its troops caught or captured in the war zone volunteers.
But its seat at the negotiating table underscores the sway it holds over the insurgents from the mostly Russian-speaking industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
The truce will come into force after Alexander Hug of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) warned this week of a “massive upsurge in violence” in a country that has turned into a broken bridge between Russia and the West.
Hug said his organisation in recent weeks had recorded a 75 per cent increase in violations of a ceasefire agreed in February 2014 to little effect.
The deputy chief of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine added that the use of heavy weapons banned by a tattered February 2015 peace agreement — that neither side has actually followed — had risen by 300 per cent.
Ukraine and its pro-Russian foes agreed a similar holiday truce last year.
It lasted for several weeks before fighting slowly resumed and led to a series of bloody battles over the summer.
The last truce between the two sides was agreed on September 1 and largely held until this month. — AFP