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Ukraine

Updated at 2:04 p.m. ET

A U.S. political lobbyist with links to Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to violating foreign lobbying laws for work he did on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

W. Samuel Patten appeared in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where he entered a guilty plea to one count of failing to register as a foreign agent. He has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who can request a reduced sentenced for Patten.

No sentencing date has been set.

Olga Zakrevska / dahkabrahka.com

The Ukrainian world music quartet DakhaBrakha combines rhythms and instruments from several continents with folk music from their native country. The group is scheduled to stop in Connecticut on Thursday for a performance.

The chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign says he never received a single off-the-books cash payment for political work in Ukraine.

The statement from campaign chairman Paul Manafort comes after The New York Times reported that his name appears in a so-called "black ledger" recording under-the-table payments made by the political party of Ukraine's former pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Sean Scanlon / Office of Sen. Chris Murphy

Ukrainian Americans, many with family members still living in the country, packed Hartford's Ukrainian National Home for the town hall meeting about the situation in the Eastern European country.

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

Following heavy shelling in what had been a Ukraine-controlled city, the central government's force is retreating from Debaltseve, a key railroad and transportation hub. Ukraine says it has now withdrawn 80 percent of its armed forces from the city.

"I can say now that the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard completed an operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of some units from Debaltseve this morning," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the Interfax news agency in Ukraine.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in a cease-fire which is set to begin Sunday. But there's still a long ways to go before a lasting peace can exist between the two countries.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't think the cease-fire will hold. He told CNN that the U.S. should send weapons to Ukrainian fighters to help counter Russian-backed troops and President Vladamir Putin.

"I think if we give them the weapons to defend themselves, it actually raises the prospects that the cease-fire will hold because it creates a little more balance on the ground and creates a bit of a disincentive for Putin and the separatists to keep moving through eastern Ukraine," said Lieberman.

A new cease-fire is set to begin Sunday in eastern Ukraine, in a deal after 16 hours of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany helped broker the deal, which calls for a buffer zone free of heavy weapons. News of the temporary peace emerged along with a new international aid plan for Ukraine.

As has been the case in Ukraine's nearly yearlong conflict with separatists, the new arrangement established by Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko leaves some important issues unresolved.

Catie Talarski

The American Polish Advisory Council held its annual conference at Yale University this weekend. The group discussed issues ranging from U.S.-Polish relations to the crisis in nearby Ukraine. 

Elections in Ukraine are pointing to a new parliament that will be dominated by pro-Western parties, a result that President Petro Poroshenko is hailing as a "course toward Europe" but one that is likely to further anger Russia.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Kiev that exit polls show the bloc supporting Porsohenko is projected to win about 23 percent of the vote, followed closely by an allied party, the People's Front, with around 21 percent.

Vladimir Yaitskiy / Creative Commons

The U.S. should allow others to take the lead in the Ukrainian crisis, according to former state department diplomat and foreign policy analyst E.Wayne Merry

An initial investigation by Dutch experts appears to support the long-held theory of what happened to MH17 over eastern Ukraine: The Malaysian airliner was brought down by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."

Although the preliminary technical report by the Dutch Safety Board did not directly say the objects were surface-to-air missiles, it left little room to conclude otherwise.

Ukraine and the West, including the United States, insist that the Russian army has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia just as vehemently denies.

But reports from Russia now acknowledge that Russian soldiers are part of the battle — though they are claimed to be volunteers, on leave from their army jobs.

Critics say the Russian military is ordering soldiers into the fight, and covering up the deaths of those who are killed, in an unacknowledged war on foreign soil.

This post was updated at 1 p.m. ET.

The government of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east say they have stopped fighting, honoring a cease-fire that took effect late Friday afternoon local time.

NPR's Corey Flintoff tells our Newscast unit that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered a cease-fire once separatists agreed to peace talks at a meeting in Belarus.

During a televised press conference, Poroshenko said the peace deal was forged based on a phone conversation he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Obama, along with all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are in Wales today as a set of international conflicts puts the military alliance back in the spotlight.

At the top of the agenda is, of course, the crisis in Ukraine.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, said the allied forces are facing a situation they never thought they would see again in the region.

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