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Ukraine troops and pro-Russia rebels agree Orthodox Easter ceasefire

Ukraine's government has agreed a new truce with pro-Russian insurgents, which is set to take effect on Orthodox Easter weekend. The ceasefire comes amidst reports that fighting has reached levels not seen for months.

An agreement has been reached to halt violence in eastern Ukraine - at least until May 9, announced the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday.

The truce is set to begin at midnight on Saturday and covers Orthodox Christian Easter and International Workers' Day on May 1, as well as the ex-Soviet Union's May 9 commemorative celebrations of the end of World War II.

The latest truce will cover the two separatist provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk, said Darka Olifer, a spokeswoman for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's envoy to the OSCE-mediated talks held in Minsk.

"It was agreed that instructions for full compliance with the ceasefire will be delivered to all the responsible officials on the ground," read a copy of the joint statement posted by Olifer on Facebook.

The Donetsk rebellion leaders' official news site said the OSCE representative at the meeting had promised that the body would monitor the deal's implementation and report any violations.

German Foreign Minister and OSCE chairperson

Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the truce,

but urged both sides to stick to the terms.

"I call on all sides to adhere strictly to what has been agreed," Steinmeier said in an OSCE statement. "There is a chance now to prevent a further escalation of violence. Both sides have to seize this opportunity."

On Thursday, a United Nations official said that the

fighting in eastern Ukraine

has recently escalated to levels not seen since a cease-fire agreement was signed in February 2015.

A peace deal

co-signed by France and Germany in February 2015 in the Belarusian capital Minsk was meant to end the fighting by granting Russia-backed rebel regions a degree of autonomy within Ukraine.

The conflict has

killed more than 9,300 people

since fighting began in 2014.

rs/gsw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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