New Ukraine Truce Begins Amid Fresh Push to Resolve Conflict

  • Military, Russian-backed rebels say they’re adhering to deal
  • Heavy weapons to be withdrawn if cease-fire holds for 24 hours

A new cease-fire began in eastern Ukraine as international diplomacy to resolve the nation’s conflict with Kremlin-backed insurgents gathers pace.

The truce started at midnight in the Donbas region that borders Russia and was holding “in general” on Monday morning, according to Ukraine’s military, which only reported a handful of attacks from light weapons. Separatist spokesman Eduard Basurin said his forces didn’t experience much fire, confirming that the two sides will start to withdraw heavy weapons if the cease-fire lasts 24 hours.

“The number of violations by insurgents as of 9 a.m. is far less than usual,” Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Klymenko said by phone.

The latest truce is part of a renewed push to advance a stalled peace deal for Ukraine’s easternmost regions, where fighting has been simmering for almost three years and almost 10,000 people have died. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France met Saturday in Munich to discuss the conflict, which erupted after Russia annexed Crimea. They’re set to meet again in few weeks.

The latest initiative to resolve the conflict comes after the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to the existing peace accord, signed in the Belarusian capital of Minsk two years ago. Russia also said Monday that there’s no alternative to the Minsk pact, responding to a report claiming the existence of a different proposal.

Tensions remain. President Vladimir Putin said at the weekend that Russia will recognize passports and birth certificates issued by the two rebel republics in the Donbas region, calling it a temporary measure until the political situation stabilizes. Ukraine reported more deaths of its soldiers Sunday, before the cease-fire began.