Ukraine Announces Cease-Fire With Russia

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Ukraine's president says he and Russian President Putin have agreed to a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. Putin's spokesman says since Russia isn't a party to the conflict it can't agree to a ceasefire.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

DON GONYEA, HOST:

And I'm Don Gonyea. The Ukrainian and Russian presidents' press offices say the two leaders have agreed on the measures needed to establish a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. But the details of that phone call between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin weren't revealed. Meanwhile NATO allies meet tomorrow in Great Britain to discuss the war in Ukraine.

For more, we now go to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Kiev. Good morning.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Don.

GONYEA: OK so there's been a lot of back and forth published about what that phone call accomplished. Can you tell us what was or what wasn't agreed to?

NELSON: Yes, it was rather confusing. Initially the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, on his official website published a two-line statement, saying that an agreement for a permanent cease-fire had been reached with Russian president Vladimir Putin. And then it was amended to say that an agreement was reached, a quote, "cease-fire regime with the mutual understanding on the steps that would facilitate peace."

Meanwhile, the Russian media were reporting that this was not the case and that in fact, Russia could not be partied - or, could not be part of a cease-fire agreement because they're not partied to this conflict, in their opinion.

But then, more recently what's being said is that - and this is again in Russia - that Mr. Putin says that there could be an agreement reached between the Ukrainians and the rebels, or the Russian-backed separatists, in eastern part of Ukraine by September 5, which is when they're supposed to be meeting again in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

So there's a lot of confusion, but one thing that Mr. Putin is also quoted as saying is that the two leaders have agreed on prisoner exchange, humanitarian corridor for refugees and supplies. So you know, it does look like there's some development or movement, but it's still a little bit fluid and exactly whether this is a cease-fire or not seems to be up in the air depending on who you're talking to.

GONYEA: OK so Putin says, the deal can't be with us because we're not in the fight - the separatists are in the fight. So what are the separatists saying?

NELSON: Well, again, we have to rely on Russian media here because the Donetsk People's Republic, as one of the rebel entities is called, speaks to Russian media more often than not. And one of these officials, who was quoted, was involved in the talks in Minsk earlier this week on September 1. He's saying - he called this a quote, "game," or some sort of "game by Kiev," - the cease-fire announcement. And he says it's impractical as long as Ukrainian troops remain in the East.

And that's certainly been the position of the rebels all along because they're trying to establish a country or autonomous region that they call New Russia, where Ukraine would have no meaningful control. So it's - they obviously don't agree with it.

GONYEA: And just quickly, any signs of any change in the fighting?

NELSON: Yeah. Ukrainian troops are pulling back from a lot of positions in the East, but they seem to be reinforcing themselves in the southern port city of Mariupol, which the rebels have said they would capture.

GONYEA: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

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