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East Ukraine cease-fire appears to largely hold despite sporadic violations

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DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukraine's cease-fire appears largely to be holding, with one killing reported in the last two days in Donetsk, one of the hardest-hit cities in the conflict, officials said Thursday.

The city council in Donetsk said no deaths were reported in fighting overnight on Wednesday, one of the quietest nights recently in eastern Ukraine. However, Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told journalists on Thursday that an emergency worker was killed by fighting near Donetsk's airport.

The city council of Donetsk said in a statement published online that the situation in much of the city was calm, although occasional explosions could still be heard in a neighborhood in the north, near the government-held airport.

A cease-fire declared Sept. 5 has been riddled by repeated violations, and both sides have promised to regroup and continue fighting, if required.

PHOTO: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, escorted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is welcomed by U.S. lawmakers as he arrives to address a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Poroshenko is seeking more robust U.S military assistance to help his country in its fight against Russian-backed rebels and will also be meeting with President Barack Obama.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, escorted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is welcomed by U.S. lawmakers as he arrives to address a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Poroshenko is seeking more robust U.S military assistance to help his country in its fight against Russian-backed rebels and will also be meeting with President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that 17 soldiers have been killed since the start of the cease-fire.

But the past week has seen some progress in an ultimate political solution to the crisis.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill granting greater autonomy to the rebellious regions of the country and amnesty to some of the rebels. On Thursday, the Belarusian foreign ministry confirmed that peace talks involving Russia, Ukraine, and the rebels would continue Friday in Minsk under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told ITAR TASS news agency that Moscow expects Friday's meeting of the Contact Group will "help further movement forward."

Poroshenko, who traveled to the United States on Thursday, also was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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PHOTO: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, escorted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is welcomed by U.S. lawmakers as he arrives to address a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Poroshenko is seeking more robust U.S military assistance to help his country in its fight against Russian-backed rebels and will also be meeting with President Barack Obama.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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