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Ukraine Cease-Fire Is Reached, Along With $40 Billion Aid Deal

A new cease-fire is set to begin Sunday in eastern Ukraine, in a deal after 16 hours of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany helped broker the deal, which calls for a buffer zone free of heavy weapons. News of the temporary peace emerged along with a new international aid plan for Ukraine.

As has been the case in Ukraine's nearly yearlong conflict with separatists, the new arrangement established by Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko leaves some important issues unresolved.

NPR's Corey Flintoff brings us these details that emerged from the talks in Minsk:

"The immediate issues in these talks were stopping the fighting, establishing a security zone between the two sides, and pulling their heavy weapons out of each other's range. The long-term issues are whether Ukraine will officially recognize the areas where separatists have declared independence, and give those regions power in the central government."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande acknowledged that more work remains to be done, even as they celebrated the temporary peace deal.

"This is a relief for Europe and a fine example of what France and Germany can do for peace," Hollande said.

"We have now a glimmer of hope," Merkel said, adding, "I have no illusions, we have no illusions."

The cease-fire, which would begin after midnight Saturday night, does not resolve the status of a transport hub called Debaltseve, which sits between two cities controlled by the separatists.

After a recent burst of fighting, insurgents — and Russia — are calling for the Ukrainian troops in the city to surrender, saying they're surrounded. Ukraine doesn't see it that way.

The apparent breakthrough comes as Ukraine, faced with a Russian-backed insurgency and a deep recession, has agreed to preliminary terms on an aid package that would bring some $40 billion to bolster its economy. That effort was led by the International Monetary Fund, which will contribute nearly half of the money in what would be a four-year deal.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.