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Ukraine Cease-Fire Brings End To 5 Months Of Violence

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After almost five months of conflict, the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists have signed a truce to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. More than 2,600 people have died in the violence and hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the deal was based on a plan he discussed with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Here's Poroshenko speaking at the NATO summit in Wales.

PETRO POROSHENKO: I can assure you that from Ukrainian side, we really do our best to keep peace and stability in eastern part of Ukraine, because this is the very important challenge not only for Ukraine - not only for the region - for the whole world.

CORNISH: For more on the cease-fire, we turn to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who is in Kiev. And Eleanor, this supposedly went into effect this morning. But have the two sides actually stopped fighting?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, it seems so. It went into effect at six p.m. in the evening Ukrainian time - that's when President Poroshenko said he asked his generals to stop fighting. So far, the Ukrainian news is not reporting any fighting. So indirectly, I guess that's a way of saying it has taken effect. The fighting has stopped because everyone is on the lookout for anyone who is going to breach this agreement.

CORNISH: Now how much is known about the details of the agreement?

BEARDSLEY: Well, the points of the agreement have come out on some of the Ukrainian news sites. For example, there's to be a six-mile buffer zone between Russia and Ukraine on the border. A police force is going to be put in place and monitored by the OSCE - that's the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - to monitor the cease-fire. And amnesty has been given for those who lay down their arms and didn't commit heavy crimes. Now that's raised a few eyebrows here in Kiev. And then the main point is the de-centralization of power. So that is going to give some autonomy to those eastern regions that wanted that. Also protection of the Russian language - and it mentioned a possible amendment to the constitution to guarantee that.

CORNISH: Now given what you've described and all the death and destruction and of course thousands of refugees, can either side say it's achieved what it wanted?

BEARDSLEY: Well, that is a good question. You know, the main thing is there'll be no more killing hopefully. So that is a win for both sides. You know, at first glance the separatists seem to have gained some things they wanted like autonomy, protection for the, you know, Russian language. Also they - Petro Poroshenko said he was going to grant concessions for their economy and their culture in the East. But he did emphasize that the basis of the agreement was the sovereignty of Ukraine. So they're not going to break the country up. So that's sort of a win for the people in the west of the country who wanted to keep the country together.

CORNISH: Eleanor, you're in Kiev - the Ukrainian capital. What's been the reaction to the news?

BEARDSLEY: Well, people here are a bit taken aback. They feel that there've been many concessions made to the East, you know, maybe too much given away to the separatists. They're going to get autonomy. People don't really know how much autonomy they'll get.

But they do seem prepared to accept that for peace. Still, they're skeptical. They're skeptical because a cease-fire has been breached in the past. They're skeptical because there's a huge mistrust of Russian President Vladimir Putin here. And in fact, one woman told me - she sighed and she said, you know, Ukraine will never truly be at peace until Putin is out of power.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Kiev. Eleanor, thank you.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.