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5 Sep, 2014 12:50

Kiev, E. Ukraine militia agree on ceasefire starting 1500 GMT Friday

Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire, as the contact group met behind closed doors in Belarus.

The two sides accompanied by representatives of Russia and the OSCE were meeting in the Belorussian capital, Minsk, in an attempt to end the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is now in Wales for the NATO summit, has confirmed the ceasefire agreement on his Twitter account.

В Мінську підписали попередній протокол до угоди про припинення вогню. Цей протокол має набути чинності в п'ятницю. pic.twitter.com/rY9KMpa0hl

— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) September 5, 2014

He has ordered the pro-government forces to stop military actions starting 6 pm local time (15:00 GMT), as stated in the protocol.

“I give the order to the chief of the General staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to cease fire, starting from 18.00 [local time] on September 5,” Poroshenko's statement says.

He has called on both the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the OSCE to provide international monitoring of compliance with the bilateral ceasefire.

“We must do everything possible and impossible to stop bloodshed and put an end to people’s suffering,” the president said in a statement posted on his official website.

He also expressed hope that both sides would follow the protocol.

СРОЧНО: В Минске представители Украины и ДНР и ЛНР подписали протокол о прекращении огня с 18.00 пятницы

— ДНР Новороссия (@press_dnr) September 5, 2014

Shortly after signing the agreement with Kiev, Representatives of the rebel forces promised to obey the ceasefire if Kiev follows suit. Both Donetsk and Lugansk have said they are ready to lay down arms starting from 15:00GMT.

“Most of the points of the protocol correspond with our demands,” Lugansk’s leader Igor Plotnitsky said. “However, the ceasefire does not mean a shift from our course of breaking away from Ukraine. This is a compulsory measure,” he said.

At 15:00 GMT, Ukraine's National Security Council (SNBO) reported that its troops had halted all military actions.

“According to the decision of the President of Ukraine and the order of the chief of the General staff of the military units of Ukraine, troops in the area of anti-terrorist operations ceased fire at 15.00 GMT,” Lysenko said.

Rebels’ forces have also issued the same order.

“In the execution of the Minsk agreements we stopped fighting at 18:00. This decision has been communicated to all departments,” RIA Novosti reported.

A woman cleans debris from her house damaged by what locals say, was recent shelling by Ukrainian forces in Donetsk August 23, 2014. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

With the conflict engulfing the southeastern Ukraine, the region is risking facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Water and electricity supplies have been disrupted, leaving dozens of people without basic essentials. In Lugansk only one hospital appeared to be operational, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission reported earlier this week.

Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, the UN reported last week. More than 6,033 have been wounded in the turmoil.

The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.

Hours before the ceasefire, shelling was reported in Donetsk and there were reports of heavy fighting outside Mariupol, where over two days seven civilians including two children, were killed.

OSCE: 'Good news'

The OSCE’s Heidi Tagliavini has welcomed the agreement saying “it is good news.”

She has revealed that the protocol consists of 12 points, and “the ceasefire is the chief one.” However, she has not clarified the remaining 11 points.

Journalists have managed to obtain more details from their sources, but this information could not be immediately confirmed.

President Poroshenko also commented on one of the points of the protocol – “all to all” exchange of prisoners, which he said can take place “soon, maybe tomorrow.”

READ MORE:Putin lays out 7-step plan to stop hostilities in E. Ukraine

Russia has welcomed the ceasefire agreement, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

“Moscow hopes that all provisions of the document and agreements reached will be carefully executed by the parties, as well as the continuation of the negotiation process for full settlement of the crisis in Ukraine,” Peskov said in a statement.

The participants in the talks will prepare another document - a memorandum on settling the situation in Ukraine, a Donetsk representative said.

In their recent phone call on September 3, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, showed a willingness to find an agreement to resolve the months-long conflict in the southeastern Ukraine.

Following the conversation with his counterpart, President Putin laid out a seven-point plan that could help find a solution.