Minsk deal offers ‘glimmer of hope’ amid major obstacles for Ukraine, Russia

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    European leaders laid claim today to a fragile peace in Ukraine, as a night of negotiations produced plans for yet another cease-fire. All through the night in this marble-floored convention hall in Minsk, journalists and official entourages waited and waited. The leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine went into the meeting Wednesday and emerged 16 hours later declaring they had a deal.

  • CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter):

    There is a glimmer of hope here, but concrete steps, of course, have to be taken, and we will still face major obstacles. On balance, I can say that what we have achieved gives significantly more hope than if we had achieved nothing.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Under the cease-fire, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian rebels will lay down arms on Sunday at midnight local time. Starting Monday, heavy weapons must be withdrawn from a buffer zone ranging 30 to nearly 90 miles wide.

    But Russia and Ukraine disagreed on a key point, a provision that apparently grants extensive self-rule to Eastern Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko:

  • PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine (through interpreter):

    Despite firm insistence from Russia, we didn't agree any status of autonomy for Eastern Ukraine. We will do this through constitutional reforms of decentralization that will concern the whole country. And we didn't agree on federalization.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Down the hall, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a decidedly different view.

  • PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter):

    As for the complex issues connected with the long-term political resolution, there are many positions here. The first of them is constitutional reform. That should take into account the lawful rights of the people who live in Eastern Ukraine.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What happens with the transport hub of Debaltseve was also unresolved. The government-held town is now surrounded by rebels.

    News of the Minsk agreement was greeted with cautious optimism both in Donetsk and Kiev.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    Everybody wants for people not to get killed. It is painful when neighbors get killed. I'm hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. WO I think it is not bad if it is indeed the way they agreed, if there are no violations from the Russian side again.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    A previous cease-fire in September barely took hold and in recent weeks collapsed altogether.

    And even today, Ukraine charged, more Russian tanks and missile systems crossed the border overnight. U.S. officials said Russia must prove it's serious about the peace agreement by ending support for the rebels. They also said the option of imposing additional sanctions on Moscow remains on the table.

    We will look more closely at what was agreed to in Minsk and what's in dispute after the news summary.

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