Fighting eases with ceasefire in Ukraine

By Petr Josek

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

Heavy fog muffled the sound of artillery, but regular shelling could still be heard from Luhanske, a town about nine miles to the north-west. 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 onslaughts from the rebels. The town is a railway link between the separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.


The ceasefire 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.