Four-nation talks on the crisis in Ukraine concluded in Minsk, Belarus, earlier this morning with a ceasefire agreement between rebels and Ukraine forces set to take effect at midnight on Saturday, February 14.
The marathon talks between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, ran through Wednesday night lasting 16-hours before an accord was reached among the parties to re-implement a ceasefire at zero-hours on Sunday, February 15.
As negotiations ran, 19 Ukrainian soldiers died battling advancing pro-Russian rebels around the town of Debaltseve. Also as talks ran, Russia began military exercises in 12 regions involving more than 30 missile regiments, Reuters reported.
A communique from the negotiating parties expressed a commitment by all parties to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. "The main thing which has been achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday, there should be declared without any conditions at all, a general ceasefire," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko told the press after the peace talks. France's President Francois Hollande cautioned there was still much work to be done on the Ukraine crisis, yet he remained optimistic that the Minsk agreement was a real chance to ameliorate Ukraine's crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel lauded Russia's Vladimir Putin for getting the Russian-backed separatists to accept the ceasefire. "Towards the end President Putin also put pressure on the separatists so that they agreed for a ceasefire from Saturday at 2400 hours, or Sunday at zero hours," Reuters quoted the German leader.
Strangely though, as negotiations ran, Putin's forces were mobilizing in military exercises in 12 regions of Russia.
Moreover, the new ceasefire did not reveal any fall back to original boundaries by the pro-Russian rebels who have gained more territory since the last September Minsk ceasefire agreement.
But an agreement to peace is always good. And for those Ukrainians who amassed at the Maidan to demonstrate for westernization and for freedom from Russian influence, maybe, just maybe, they could now realize their aspirations.
The other major European decision of Wednesday involved Greece's showdown with the Euro zone over a Greek proposal to reschedule its austerity measures. No deal nor decision was made in the matter negotiated with the European Bank and the International Monetary Fund(IMF), so that issue was deferred to another meeting on Monday.