Pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government have signed a cease-fire deal that was to begin at approximately 6 p.m. local time in Kiev (11 a.m. ET).
The deal came after talks in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, which also included representatives from Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine had earlier announced the cease-fire on the group's Twitter account.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said at the top of a cabinet meeting in Kiev on Friday that any broader peace deal must include three conditions, according to Reuters: a cease-fire, a withdrawal of "Russian forces, and Russian bandits and terrorists," and the "restoration" of Ukraine's state border with Russia.
The specifics of the cease-fire deal weren't immediately disclosed.
Fighting has raged in Ukraine for months, as pro-Russian separatists have battled Ukrainian forces looking to restore order to the country's eastern region. Upon entering office in June, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stepped up his military offensive in the east.
Over the past few weeks, Russia has significantly escalated its involvement in the conflict. NATO said last week that more than 1,000 Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine, and other, more recent estimates upped that total. According to the Financial Times, NATO officials said as of Friday, more than 3,000 Russian troops were in Ukraine. That means more Russian troops were involved in the fight than separatists.
Russian forces' direct involvement shifted the balance in the conflict and gave pro-Russian separatists a boost after Ukraine's military made significant advances.
Meanwhile on Friday, there were reports of heavy shelling north and east of the key strategic city of Mariupol. The city Mariupol sits between areas occupied by separatists and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in March with the help of special forces. The fear is that Russia is attempting to create a land link between Russia and the strategic peninsula.
Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider last week that Russia's decision to escalate its involvement had forced Poroshenko into a corner. Bremmer said Poroshenko would most likely seek a quick cease-fire solution to prevent his country's economy from completely collapsing.
"The Ukrainian government has been in an impossible position, they gambled, and they've lost," Bremmer said. "Poroshenko now needs a cease-fire so that he can try to restart negotiations, the terms of which will effectively mean freezing the conflict and ceding significant pieces of Ukrainian territory to the separatists. That's politically perilous for him and risks counterdemonstrations against his government in Kiev. All the while his economy will be falling apart, with very limited support from the West."
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