On 12 February 2015, leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany 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 said the agreement envisages a cease-fire that will be effective from 15 February, 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 even as the four leaders were engaged in talks.
The documents signed envisage the withdrawal of all foreign troops and militants from Ukraine—a reference to the soldiers and weapons that Ukraine and the West say Russia has sent into eastern Ukraine to back the rebels. Moscow has denied the accusations, saying Russians in eastern Ukraine were volunteers, but the sheer number of sophisticated heavy weapons in rebels’ possession belied the denial.
Russian President Putin said that the peace deal also determines a division line from which heavy weapons will be pulled back. The line of division and other key provisions were contained in a document endorsed by rebel chiefs and the representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. That agreement was endorsed by the four leaders, who issued a separate declaration.
The French-German diplomatic dash came as US President Barack Obama considered rising calls at home for sending U.S. lethal aid to Ukraine, a move that the European leaders feared would only widen hostilities.