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Ukraine separatists agree fresh ceasefire from Friday

© AFP/File | Pedestrians walk past a damaged building in Donetsk

KIEV (AFP) - 

Separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine said Wednesday that a fresh ceasefire would come into force on Friday, ahead of the start of the new school year.

The new truce, set to extend an existing ceasefire agreement, will begin after midnight on Thursday. It was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine attended by the separatists, the separatists' main news site quoted rebel negotiator Denis Pushilin as saying.

"Due to the upcoming start of the school year, the Contact Group agreed and supported a stable and universal ceasefire along the contact line in Donbass starting at 00:00 on August 25 (21:00 GMT on August 24)," Pushilin said.

The Contact Group is made up of representatives from Kiev, Moscow and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE, which has a monitoring mission to eastern Ukraine, said in a statement that it "welcomes the recommitment to ceasefire," calling it "an encouraging joint, political signal from all signatories" to the peace plan.

No end date for the ceasefire was given.

In June the warring sides agreed on a so-called "harvest ceasefire" from June 24 that was set to last until August 31.

The US special envoy on Ukraine Kurt Volker on Tuesday also backed a fresh ceasefire to come in force as schools start on September 1.

The conflict between Russia-backed fighters and Ukrainian troops has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014, when pro-Russian forces occupied parts of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea.

© 2017 AFP