A ceasefire between Ukraine and separatist rebels began last night and appears to still be in place following a five-month bloody conflict left more than 2,000 dead.
The deal began at 6pm local time after being signed in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, by Kiev, Moscow and the Russia-backed separatists, as well as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
As part of the agreement, all heavy weaponry is to be withdrawn, more than 1,000 prisoners released and humanitarian aid sent to the epicentre of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The situation is still precarious, however, with both sides claiming that the other has violated the agreement.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed that the ceasefire was a result of a “long conversation” between all parties mediated by members of the OSCE.
He added that the prisoner exchange, which has been described as a “breakthrough”, could begin today and that today he and Mr Putin had discussed giving the ceasefire "a stable character".
Ukraine crisis: A timeline of the conflict
Ukraine crisis: A timeline of the conflict
1/22 30 November 2013
Public support grows for the “Euromaidan” anti-government protesters in Kiev demonstrating against Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement as images of them injured by police crackdown spread.
2/22 20 February 2014
Kiev sees its worst day of violence for almost 70 years as at least 88 people are killed in 48 hours, with uniformed snipers shooting at protesters from rooftops.
3/22 22 February 2014
Yanukovych flees the country after protest leaders and politicians agree to form a new government and hold elections. The imprisoned former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, is freed from prison and protesters take control of Presidential administration buildings, including Mr Yanukovych's residence.
Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Imageses
4/22 27 February 2014
Pro-Russian militias seize government buildings in Crimea and the new Ukrainian government vows to prevent the country breaking up as the Crimean Parliament sets a referendum on secession from Ukraine in May.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
5/22 16 March 2014
Crimea votes overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a ballot condemned by the US and Europe as illegal. Russian troops had moved into the peninsula weeks before after pro-Russian separatists occupied buildings.
6/22 6 April 2014
Pro-Russian rebels seize government buildings in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, calling for a referendum on independence and claiming independent republic. Ukraine authorities regain control of Kharkiv buildings on 8 April after launching an “anti-terror operation” but the rest remain out of their control.
7/22 7 June 2014
Petro Poroshenko is sworn in as Ukraine's president, calling on separatists to lay down their arms and end the fighting and later orders the creation of humanitarian corridors, since violated, to allow civilians to flee war zones.
8/22 27 June 2014
The EU signs an association agreement with Ukraine, along with Georgia and Moldova, eight months after protests over the abandonment of the deal sparked the crisis.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
9/22 17 July 2014
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Ukrainian intelligence officials claim it was hit by rebels using a Buk surface-to-air launcher in an apparent accident.
10/22 22 August 2014
A Russian aid convoy of more than 100 lorries enters eastern Ukraine and makes drop in rebel-controlled Luhansk without Government permission, sparking allegations of a “direct violation of international law”.
11/22 29 August 2014
Nato releases satellite images appearing to show Russian soldiers, artillery and armoured vehicles engaged in military operations in eastern Ukraine.
12/22 8 September 2014
Russia warns that it could block flights through its airspace if the EU goes ahead with new sanctions over the ongoing crisis and conflict
13/22 17 September 2014
Despite the cease-fire and a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday granting greater autonomy to rebel-held parts of the east, civilian casualties continued to rise, adding to the estimated 3,000 people killed
14/22 16 November 2014
The fragile ceasefire gives way to an increased wave of military activity as artillery fire continues to rock the eastern Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel bastion of Donetsk
15/22 26 December 2014
A new round of ceasefire talks, scheduled on neutral ground in the Belariusian capital Minsk, are called off
16/22 12 January 2015
Soldiers in Debaltseve were forced to prepare heavy defences around the city; despite a brief respite to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, hostilities in Donetsk resumed at a level not seen since September 2014
17/22 21 January 2015
13 people are killed during shelling of bus in the rebel-held city of Donetsk
18/22 24 January 2015
Ten people were killed after pro-Russian separatists bombarded the east Ukrainian port city of Mariupol
19/22 2 February 2015
There was a dangerous shift in tempo as rebels bolstered troop numbers against government forces
20/22 11 February 2015
European leaders meet in Minsk and agree on a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine beginning on February 14. From left to right: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
MAXIM MALINOVSKY | AFP | Getty Images
21/22 13 February 2015
Pro-Russian rebels in the city of Gorlivka, in the Donetsk region, fire missiles at Ukrainian forces in Debaltseve. Fighting continued in Debaltseve for a number of days after the Minsk ceasefire began.
ANDREY BORODULIN | AFP | Getty Images
22/22 18 February 2015
Ukrainian soldiers repair the bullet-shattered windshield of their truck as their withdraw from the strategic town of Debaltseve. Following intense shelling from pro-Russian rebels, Ukrainian forces began to leave the town in the early hours of February 18.
Brendan Hoffman | Getty Images
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin hopes the ceasefire will ensure that negotiations can continue in the effort to bring about “the full settlement of the crisis in Ukraine”.
US President Barack Obama said that the ceasefire is fresh and “has to be tested” and that the most effective way to ensure its success would be to continue with the additional approved economic sanctions.
However, Russia's Foreign Ministry said this morning that it "will react" if the EU sanctions are imposed, though it is unclear in what shape this reaction will come.
A statement said: "If they are implemented of course there will be a reaction from our side," according to Reuters.
The EU ratified further sanctions against Moscow yesterday, extending the list of people who will be slapped with travel bans and asset freezes, in addition to tighter controls on its access to capital marks and its trade in arms and defence technologies.
They are due to come into force on Monday.
The sanctions could be suspended if Moscow keeps to its side of the truce deal and removes its troops from Ukraine.
Speaking at the end of a two-day Nato summit in Wales, President Obama added that he hopes the truce would hold but that there is concern the rebels and Russia could still fall foul of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko, said he was “very pleased and happy that we managed to take the first steps to change the military situation into a political discussion.”
However, he also claimed that there has been shelling in the town of Amvrosiivka, which is 30 miles southeast from the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk.
He didn't elaborate on when this breach had happened but added: "At this time the ceasefire agreement is not being fully observed".
Ukrainian spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Mr Zakharchenko's comments were a provocation and that the rebels had fired at Ukraine's military on Friday night - though this would have been prior to the ceasefire coming into effect.
Speaking on the ceasefire, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “If certain processes get under way, we are prepared to suspend sanctions.
“We have to see whether this ceasefire is being applied. Do Russian troops withdraw, so far as they're there?”
Russia has always denied supplying the rebels with weaponry, troops and funds since the fighting began in April.
United National Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the full implementation of the ceasefire and also hailed the discussions between the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia as a “breakthrough”.
He added that “credible and comprehensive monitoring and verification are essential elements for successful implementation of the cease-fire and the peace plan.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content