NEWS BRIEF Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine announced a unilateral cease-fire Tuesday, the first to be proposed by rebel groups since violent conflict began in that country in 2014.
Alexander Zakharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader and the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian television the cease-fire would go into effect on Wednesday at midnight local time. Zakharchenko said his troops would cease military operations at that time, and called on the Ukrainian military to do the same. If successful, it could bring a pause to the two-year conflict that has killed at least 9,500 people.
“Military units of Donetsk People’s Republic do not consider it as a weakness rather than a demonstration of a good will,” Zakharchenko said, according to Ruptly TV, a news agency funded by the Russian government. “In case of any violation of the cease-fire by the Ukrainian side, our units will respond in kind. We won’t allow shelling of our territory to continue unpunished.”
The Luhansk People’s Republic, another self-proclaimed state in eastern Ukraine, also announced a cease-fire Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.
Zakharchenko gave his support for the Minsk agreements brokered last year, in which representatives of the Ukrainian government and separatist groups agreed to a number of conditions, including the withdrawal of heavy artillery from eastern Ukraine and the establishment of a demarcation line between Ukrainian forces and separatist troops. Zakharchenko called those accords “the only solution” to the ongoing conflict. But the Minsk agreements have so far failed to stop the violence.