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European Leaders Forge Cease-Fire In Ukraine


World leaders have announced a cease-fire deal for Ukraine. The presidents of Russia, France, Ukraine and the chancellor of Germany crafted an agreement during an all-night negotiating session in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. They say the plan goes into effect on Sunday and includes pulling back heavy weapons. On the line with us is NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who's in Brussels. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: And tell us what you know about that new deal.

BEARDSLEY: Well, this deal addresses the main points, three major principles. There will be a cease-fire. It will go into effect on 15 of February, midnight Saturday night. There will be a buffer zone and each side will pull back its heavy military equipment - tanks, artillery - and get the belligerents out of this buffer zone. The last point is that Ukraine's sovereignty has been endorsed and recognized by all sides.

MONTAGNE: All sides, and of course that includes Russia's Vladimir Putin, who is in that all-night marathon session. But are there things that have not agreed on?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, there seem to be many points that they haven't agreed on, many of the finer points. For example, where will these cease-fire lines be drawn? Because the Ukrainians wanted them to go back to the September cease-fire lines, and Russia said no, that the separatists should be able to keep the gains they've made. So we don't know that. And already there are differences in interpretation being heard. The president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has said that no autonomy will be granted to these Eastern provinces. And we're hearing that the Russian media is already reporting that Ukraine will rewrite its constitution to give them greater autonomy. So there's differences already coming out, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And so what might be happening now from here on out?

BEARDSLEY: Well, now we have to take this - they have to take this peace agreement on paper and bring it to the war zone, get the fighting parties to sign on and to stop fighting and to pull back. Analysts here are saying that the key point is for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be able to convince the separatists to stop fighting, especially because they've recently made big gains, Renee.

You know, President Hollande spoke and he called this serious hope for peace. Renee, this conflict - the biggest since the war that broke up Yugoslavia in the mid-'90s - was really threatening Europe, and that's why Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany came personally to help try to end it. He said they would make sure that the cease-fire was implemented.

But, Renee, this is not Europe's only problem. Now after 16 hours of negotiations, not sleeping all night, Hollande and Merkel head to Brussels, where they will preside over a summit on terrorism - the first big summit after the Paris attacks - and deal with the great debt crisis. As you know, Greece has a new government and wants to completely renegotiate its debt.

MONTAGNE: And you'll be there when they get there because NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Brussels. Thank you.

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

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.