KIEV, Dec. 22 - Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents have reached a vital "New Year" truce agreement that will go into effect at midnight Tuesday in the hope of finally ending clashes in the war-scarred ex-Soviet state, AFP reported.
The announcement suggests that the warring sides were more ready than ever to put aside their guns while they negotiate the formal status of the separatist east and other contentious issues.
An adviser to President Petro Poroshenko's peace negotiator said the new deal had been agreed in the Belarussian capital Minsk during the latest round of periodic talks.
"We have an agreement about a complete and unconditional ceasefire that will begin at 00:00 hours on the night of December 22-23," Darka Olifer wrote on her Facebook page.
"This initiative is especially needed so that civilians who live in (the separatist east) can spend Christmas and the New Year holidays in peace."
An envoy from the predominantly rebel-run Luhansk province said the new agreement was necessary because of "repeated violations by Kiev" of a loosely-enforced existing truce.
And the head envoy from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that is helping broker an end to the 20-month war said the sides had also agreed to limit their troop and tank movements along the 500-kilometre (300-mile) front.
"We express our expectations and hope that the people of eastern Ukraine can enjoy their New Year and Christmas days in peace and keep these conditions in the future," Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted Martin Sajdik as saying in Minsk.
"We have agreed that the sides will refrain from conducting any military maneuvers, and also reduce to a minimum any movement of forces," the OSCE negotiator added.
The warring sides had reached a September 1 truce agreement that significantly calmed deadly exchanges of artillery and missile fire along a 30-kilometre-wide (19-mile-wide) buffer zone separating rebel-run territory from the rest of Ukraine.
Yet a new upsurge in violence that began last week has put the September deal under threat. (afp/ez)