KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian govern-ment forces said they had suspended combat operations as a “Day of Silence” began in the war-torn east on Tuesday, marking an effective ceasefire on the frontline of the conflict with separatist rebels.
In the city of Donetsk, the sepa-ratists’ main stronghold, a Reuters correspondent said firing was heard up to 9am but later appeared to have slackened off.
“The Ukrainian military have suspended all combat actions and are ready for the Day of Silence, but if separatists attack we will fire in response,” a military spokesman said by telephone.
The Ukrainians have billed the Day of Silence a litmus test for the readiness of Russian-backed sepa-ratists to reinforce a ceasefire which was agreed three months ago but which has been regularly breached with almost daily deaths among government forces, civilians and rebels.
If it holds, it could improve pros-pects for a renewal of peace talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk later this week involving Russia, Ukraine and separatist leaders un-der the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It was in talks by the so-called contact group in Minsk in early September that a 12-point blueprint for peace, including a ceasefire, was worked out.
But much has changed in eastern Ukraine since then. The separatists have declared “people’s republics” and elected officials, while on the battlefield, separatist assaults have continued on the main international airport in Donetsk to wrest control from government forces.