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Pro-Russians agree to ceasefire ahead of school year in east Ukraine

The pro-Russia forces fighting in eastern Ukraine have agreed to a fresh ceasefire ahead of the start of the new school year in the region.

The agreement was reached at a Thursday meeting of the Contact Group, including the representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE ). It would take effect on Friday.

“Due to the upcoming start of the school year, the Contact Group agreed and supported a stable and universal ceasefire along the contact line in Donbass starting at 00:00 on August 25 (21:00 GMT on August 24),” said Denis Pushilin, a representative of the pro-Russia forces, referring to the eastern Ukrainian region.

He did not specify the length of the truce.

The OSCE, which is tasked with handling peace talks and monitoring the situation in eastern Ukraine, said in a statement that it “welcomes the recommitment to ceasefire,” and called it “an encouraging joint, political signal from all signatories” to the peace plan.

Earlier, the warring sides had reached an agreement on a so-called “harvest ceasefire,” which started on June 24 and was set to last until August 31.

Conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for unification with Russia in March 2014. The West brands the unification as annexation of the territory by Russia. The US and its allies in Europe also accuse Russia of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by Moscow.

The crisis has left over 10,000 people dead and more than a million others displaced, according to the United Nations.

This photo, taken on April 06, 2015, shows a man collecting debris on the roof of a burned house after shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. (By AFP)

In September 2014, the government in Kiev and the pro-Russia forces signed a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk in a bid to halt the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions, collectively known as the Donbass.

The warring sides also inked another truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany, and France.

Since then, however, sporadic fighting has occurred, with the parties blaming each other for initiating the violations.

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