Ukraine crisis, Minsk cease-fire holds
Yesterday's agreement includes the release of "hostages" and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the battlefields of the East, by both factions. Today the first shipment of humanitarian aid should enter the Dombass. Separatist leader: "This truce doesn't mean that our course for secession is over."

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The cease-fire agreed yesterday between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists appears to be holding. Reached in Minsk (Belarus), the agreement was signed by the former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the leader of the pro-Russia rebels and the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, with the mediation of members of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). From the NATO summit in Wales, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko confirmed the ceasefire had been reached.

The 12-point agreement includes the release of "hostages" - scheduled for today - and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the battlefields in the east. Moscow has agreed to the resumption of humanitarian assistance to the eastern region. The first shipment of aid should arrive in Dombass today.

The agreement was reached just hours after NATO leaders approved a plan to respond to the Ukrainian crisis, with the establishment of outposts in Eastern Europe to curb Russian aggression. Commenting on the achievement of the truce, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described it as "a first step towards a permanent solution" to a conflict that has killed about 2,600 people.

The pact could help avoid new round of sanctions for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also yesterday, in fact, the European Union (EU) leaders approved an expansion of the list of Russians to be subjected to an asset freeze and travel ban. The list would include the new leadership in eastern Ukraine, the Government of the Crimea and some Russian oligarchs. These measures should enter into force on Monday, September 8, but could be suspended if the cease-fire holds and Moscow withdraws its forces from Ukrainian territory.

However Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the separatists in the Luhansk region, has told reporters: "This [cease-fire] doesn't mean that our course for secession is over."