Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Ukraine cease-fire largely holding, Debaltseve still tense

Published:Monday | February 16, 2015 | 2:00 AM

LUHANSKE (AP):

A ceasefire that went into effect yesterday in eastern Ukraine appeared largely to be holding, officials said, except for around the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve.

Heavy fog shrouding sodden fields muffled the sound of artillery, but regular shelling could still be heard from Luhanske, a town about 15 kilometres (nine miles) to the northwest. Associated Press journalists were blocked from moving closer by Ukrainian troops, who said it was not safe to travel ahead.

The ceasefire has kindled slender hopes of reprieve from the conflict between government troops and Russian-backed separatists that has claimed more than 5,300 lives since it began in April.

Attention will be focused in the coming days on Debaltseve, where Ukrainian forces have for weeks been fending off severe onslaughts from the rebels. The town is a railway link between the main separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

This latest cessation of hostilities was agreed after a marathon session of diplomacy last week that brought together the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France for talks in the capital of Belarus, Minsk.