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An agreement has been brokered in Minsk to stop hostilities in Ukraine from Sunday.

“I believe we agreed on a big deal. We agreed to a ceasefire starting at 00:00 on February 15” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media after the talks were finished.

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Putin said that Kiev’s unwillingness to hold direct talks with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics was among the reasons it took so much time to reach an agreement.

“They may be unrecognized, but we have to deal with real life here, and if everyone wants to agree and have sustainable relations, direct contacts are needed”, Putin said.

If broken, no new memorandum possible

Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who signed the Minsk document, said it required additional consultation and warned that “if these terms are broken, there will be no new meetings or memoranda”.

He added that he and Igor Plotnitsky, the head of Lugansk People’s Republic, agreed to sign the document due to guarantees from the president of Russia, chancellor of Germany and president of France,” with the hope that it would allow their people to “achieve peaceful development.”

Alexander Zakharchenko-Donetsk People-s Republic

According to the document, Kiev’s troops would pull back heavy weapons from the current frontline.

The security zone separating the warring parties must be at least 50km wide for artillery over 100mm caliber, 70km for regular multiple rocket launchers and 100km for heavier weapons with a longer range, such as Tochka-U ballistic missiles, the document states.

The weapons pullout must start on Sunday and be completed in no longer than 14 days. The OSCE is charged with implementing the ceasefire on the ground and will use its drone fleet and monitors to verify that both parties are sticking to the deal.

The ceasefire deal provides for withdrawal of all “foreign troops, heavy weapons and mercenaries” from Ukraine under an OSCE monitoring. “Illegal armed groups” would be disarmed, but local authorities in the future would be allowed to have legal militia units.

The agreement involves exchange of all prisoners, which is to be completed within 19 days. A general amnesty for the rebels would be declared by Kiev.

The agreement requires a political reform in Ukraine to ensure decentralization and a special status for its rebel provinces. It requires Ukraine to adopt legislation which would provide permanent privileges to the Lugansk and Donetsk Regions, currently self-declared republics, by the end of 2015.

The legislation would include the right for language self-determination and trans-border ties with Russia, as well as the authority of the local governments to appoint local prosecutors and judges, the document states.

Humanitarian and economic issues are also mentioned in the deal. Kiev would restore economic ties and social payments, which it cut in rebel-held areas, the document says. An international monitoring mechanism may be established for these payments.

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Here are the points of the deal:

  • 1. A comprehensive ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Comes into force at 00.00 (Kiev time) on February 15.
  • 2. A pullout of heavy weapons. The parties agreed to a compromise disengagement line. Kiev is to pull artillery and other hardware from the current frontline while the rebels would do it from the frontline as it was in September, before they gained ground in a January counter-offensive. The OSCE-monitored safety zone would be 50 km to 150 km wide for weapons, depending on their range. The pullout is to be completed by March 1.
  • 3. The OSCE will use its drone fleet and monitors on the ground, as well as satellite images and radar data to ensure that both parties stick to the deal.
  • 4. Kiev and the rebels will negotiate the terms for future local elections in the rebel-held areas, which would bring them back into Ukraine’s legal framework. Kiev would adopt legislation on self-governance that would be acceptable for the self-proclaimed republics.
  • 5. Kiev will declare a general amnesty for the rebels.
  • 6. An exchange of all prisoners must be completed by the fifth day after full disengagement. That’s in 19 days, if the weapons pullback takes the full time provided for by the deal.
  • 7. Humanitarian aid convoys will be allowed full access to the needy in the war-affected areas. An international monitoring mechanism will be provided.
  • 8. Kiev will restore economic ties, social payments and banking services in the dissenting areas, which it cut earlier in response to the elections held by the self-proclaimed republics. Their respective governments will resume taxation and payment for utilities. This provision is subject for further negotiation.
  • 9. After the local elections are held in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, Kiev is to restore control over their borders with Russia. The transition may take time, which would be needed for a comprehensive constitutional reform in Ukraine.
  • 10. All foreign troops, heavy weapons and mercenaries are to be withdrawn from Ukraine. Illegal armed groups would be disarmed, but local authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk would be allowed to have legal militia units.
  • 11. Keiv will implement comprehensive constitutional reform by the end of the year, which would decentralize the Ukrainian political system and give privileges to Donetsk and Lugansk. The privileges include language self-determination, the freedom to appoint prosecutors and judges, and to establish economic ties with Russia.
  • 12. The OSCE’s election monitors are to see that local elections in the self-proclaimed republics are up to international standards. The exact procedure for the elections is subject to further negotiations.
  • 13. Talks between the “contact group” will be intensified in various ways.

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‘Poroshenko lost lands this winter, he needs this ceasefire for change of strategy’

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The leaders of the ‘Normandy four’ left Minsk looking quite relieved. With President Hollande even playfully pushing the German Chancellor, apparently to stop her from staying any longer. UK-based journalist Neil Clark believes the deal is a big breakthrough for Europe and its relations with Moscow.

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