Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels agree a ceasefire, a possible first step towards ending a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended. But, as Ivor Bennett reports, the NATO alliance remains wary.
After five months of fighting, the conflict in Ukraine may have come to an end. At least that appears a possibility after representatives from both sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire at talks in Minsk. But complications still remain. Leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. SOUNDBITE: Leader of the Self-Proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, saying (Russian): "It does not mean that our aim to break away is over. No. This is a needed step in order to stop bloodshed among the united people." Despite the announcement, Western leaders are on the offensive. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announcing a new rapid reaction force of 4,000 troops at a summit in Wales. Based in Eastern Europe, it's clear who the alliance sees as threat number one. SOUNDBITE: NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, saying (English): "I think the decision we have taken today, to prepare a readiness action plan, sends a very very clear message to Russia that we are strongly determined to take all steps necessary to provide effective protection and defence of our allies." For now though, their weapons are purely economic. The EU and the US, preparing fresh sanctions on Moscow, doubt its intentions. Draft legislation leaked from Brussels suggests Russian state-owned oil companies will be targeted, barring them from raising money on European capital markets. Anything more than that is unlikely, says CCLA's James Bevan. SOUNDBITE: CCLA Chief Investment Officer, James Bevan, saying (English) "I do think that there is a ready recognition that Ukraine is not part of NATO, it is not part of Western Europe, and therefore Russia, to a greater or lesser extent, will be tolerated as it wrestles with what it considers to be part of its country." The fighting continued in Ukraine right up until the ceasefire was announced. The port city of Mariupol coming under heavy fire. Previous promises of peace have all failed. Those who haven't yet fled hoping this time it's for real.