The leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine, participants at the Minsk summit talks say.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko says a general ceasefire would come into force from February 15 in Ukraine’s east, where Kiev was fighting pro-Russian separatists.
“The main thing which has been achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared without any conditions at all a general ceasefire,” he told journalists after the talks.
Mr Poroshenko has been locked in talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France and Germany at the presidential palace in Minsk since late on Wednesday.
“We have managed to agree on the main things,” a visibly pleased Mr Putin told reporters.
“We have agreed on a ceasefire,” he said, but stressed that Kiev was still unwilling to directly negotiate with rebels.
French president Francois Hollande said there was still much work to be done on the Ukraine crisis, but the agreement was a real chance for peace.
A German government spokesman said the agreement offered hope for peace.
The leaders have attempted to work out a plan to end a conflict that has pitted pro-Russian rebels against Kiev government forces in east Ukraine, killing at least 5,300 people and plunged East-West relations to a post Cold War low.
One of the main sticking points of the failed September “protocol” was who controls the 400-kilometre stretch of Russia’s border with rebel-controlled Ukraine.
Kiev has accused Moscow of pouring troops and weapons across the border to bolster the insurgency, charges the Kremlin has denied.
Arch-foes Mr Poroshenko and Mr Putin were meeting for the first time since October at the climax of a frantic European diplomatic drive aimed at stopping the crisis from escalating.
Underscoring the urgency, the number of those reported killed in the hours before the make-or-break talks rose to at least 49.
Ukraine, IMF in deal for $17.5 billion bailout
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Ukraine have reached a preliminary deal on a new financial rescue plan worth $17.5 billion that could be a “turning point” for Kiev, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said.
In total, Ukraine would receive $40 billion in assistance over four years coupled with bilateral loans from other sources, Ms Lagarde said, which would help to stabilise Kiev’s finances after 10 months of conflict in the east.
Talks had been underway in Kiev for days to reach an agreement on Ukraine’s fourth IMF bailout in 10 years. The last package in April 2014 failed to stave off financial crisis in the former Soviet republic.
“I am pleased to announce that the IMF team working in Kiev has concluded a staff-level agreement with the Ukrainian government on a new economic reform programme that would be supported by an extended fund facility of about $17.5 billion from the IMF,” Ms Lagarde said.
The announcement came as Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kiev was committed to the reforms demanded by the IMF.
“We anticipate, if the programme succeeds and Russian aggression stops, that the Ukrainian economy will start to grow in 2016,” he told reporters.
“This four-year programme shows that Ukraine will stick during that time to the vital reforms necessary to stabilise the country’s finances.”