Minsk: Leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on Thursday emerged from marathon 16-hour talks to announce a comprehensive peace deal for eastern Ukraine, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on all of its terms.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that the agreement envisages a cease-fire that will be effective starting from the start of the day Sunday (21000 GMT or 4 p.M. EST Saturday) as well as a special status for the rebel regions, provisions on border controls and humanitarian issues.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, however, denied that there was any agreement about autonomy in eastern Ukraine.
More than 5,300 people have died since April in the fighting, which continued to rage today even as the four leaders were engaged in talks.
Speaking to reporters after the exhausting talks, Putin said "it was not the best night in my life but the morning, I think, it is good because we have managed to agree on the main things despite all the difficulties of the negotiations."
Putin added, however, that he and Poroshenko disagreed on assessing the situation in a key flashpoint, the government- held town of Debaltseve, which has been the focus of fierce fighting for weeks.
Putin's statement followed the talks brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, which dragged for nearly 16 deep into a second day today as the four leaders desperately sought to resolve their differences.
Hollande said he and Merkel are committed to helping verify the cease-fire process in Ukraine, along with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.
Speaking after the talks, Hollande said the announcement of a new cease-fire deal has come as a "relief to Europe."
A previous cease-fire agreed in September fell apart as Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels both tried to gain more ground.
"We came to an agreement, an agreement on a cease-fire and on a global political settlement of the Ukrainian conflict," Hollande said. "That global settlement will include all issues, from the cease-fire to the control of the border, to decentralization, and, of course, the pullback of heavy weapons and resuming economic relations."
He also praised Putin for applying "pressure as much as necessary on the separatists."
While the four leaders hailed the agreement, it became immediately clear that Russia and Ukraine continued to disagree on how to end fighting around Debaltseve, a key transport hub between the two main rebel-controlled eastern cities.