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Ukraine and rebels to implement Minsk deal by September 1

Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in its east have agreed to end all violations to the peace deal that was signed in Minsk earlier this year. Both sides blame each other for the ongoing violence.

The two sides agreed to establish peace in Ukraine's eastern region and "jointly verify the fulfilment of

this [the Minsk deal] initiative

," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) official Martin Sajdik told reporters.

The organization was monitoring meetings between Ukraine, Russia and separatist leaders - the so-called "contact group."

"The three sided 'contact group' considers it important to reach a solid ceasefire from the beginning of the next school year," Sajdik told reporters in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

"There was a proposal to end shelling from September 1. Today there is a hope that from September 2 we will succeed fully in ending the firing. At the moment all sides have expressed the intention of abiding by this idea," rebel negotiator Vladislav Deinego said.

Hours before the announcement, Kyiv said two of its soldiers had been killed in separatist attacks in the last 24 hours.

The Minsk deal

More than 6,400 people have been killed in the conflict that erupted in April last year after Russia annexed Crimea following former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's removal from office.

When they signed the deal in Minsk this year, Ukraine and the rebels, in the presence of French and German leaders and OSCE observers, agreed to withdraw heavy weapons and implement plans for establishing a special self-management status for the region.

However, the measures have not been carried out satisfactorily, OSCE monitors say, and deaths are being reported almost on a daily basis in Donbass, the rebel territory.

Western countries have been blaming Russia for supporting eastern fighters in the conflict - a charge that Moscow denies.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama once again stressed the importance of Russia doing its bit to implement its obligations under the Minsk deal.

Recent violence in eastern Ukraine

has resulted from increased attacks by Russian and separatist forces across the line of contact established under the accord signed in the Belarusian capital, the White House said in a statement.

mg/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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