Photo: dpa / AP / Vitali Komar

Donetsk. After more than 20 attempts, a new ceasefire has entered into force in the war zone in eastern Ukraine. According to the presidential office in Kiev, the “complete and all-embracing cessation of fire” officially applied from Monday, 01.01 a.m. (Sunday, 23.01 a.m.CEST). The Ukrainian military and representatives of the pro-Russian separatists from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions had said that they had prepared everything to end the fighting. Around two dozen attempts at a complete ceasefire had already failed after a short time.

Head of the Kremlin Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian President Volodomyr Selenskyj praised the agreement on a new ceasefire in a telephone call on Sunday. At the same time, they called for more efforts in the Ukraine contact group to implement the previous peace agreements. Putin criticized attempts in Ukraine to renegotiate parts of the steps agreed in 2015 in Minsk for a peace plan. Both politicians have now announced that they are committed to the plan. Putin also demanded action instead of words from his Ukrainian colleague.

The representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine, Heidi Grau, said that there are a number of additional steps to be taken to implement the ceasefire. These include a ban on the use of drones. In addition, heavy weapons should no longer be positioned in localities – especially near kindergartens, schools and hospitals. The aim is to better protect civilians living along the roughly 450 km long front line.

Response fire should only be allowed at the top command level. “I hope that the agreed measures will bring the long-awaited peace in the conflict zone and more peace for the civilian population,” said Grau before the agreement entered into force. The OSCE therefore called on the parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations. This also includes the exchange of the last prisoners.

Since spring 2014, Ukrainian government troops have been fighting in the Donbass mining district against the insurgents supported by Russia. According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have been killed since then. A peace plan agreed with Franco-German mediation in Minsk in 2015 provides for elections and a gradual reintegration of the region into Ukraine after an armistice.

Pope Francis expressed hope in Rome on Sunday that this time peace could be achieved in Ukraine. The ceasefire is an important prerequisite for a new Ukraine crisis summit, which had already been planned in Berlin in the spring. Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron want to bring Putin and Selenskyj to a table there soon after the last summit in Paris in early December. Merkel and Putin had also recently stressed on a phone call that the Minsk peace plan and the Paris decisions were valid. dpa / nd