Wars and Military Conflicts

Stocks spike amid confusion over Ukraine cease-fire


Risk assets across Europe rose sharply on Wednesday, led by a surge in Russian stocks, on hopes that the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia were nearing a cease-fire agreement.

Russian shares on the MICEX index closed up around 3.5 percent. European bourses tracked those gains with the German DAX index, for instance, closing provisionally 1.1 percent higher.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a political solution to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine could be reached at talks in Minsk, Belarus on Friday.

"Our views on the way to resolve the conflict, as it seemed to me, are very close," Reuters cited Putin as saying at a press conference on Wednesday.

In a statement from the Kremlin Wednesday, the Russian government outlined a seven-point plan for an effective ceasefire. Among the conditions were the withdrawal of Ukrainian armed forces to a distance that would make it impossible to fire on populated areas and the opening up of corridors for refugees and delivering aid.

However, later on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Putin's comments on peace were an attempt to avoid new sanctions from the West, according to Reuters.

It followed earlier confusion after Poroshenko announced he had reached a permanent cease-fire agreement with Russia, but later toned down the statement by dropping the word "permanent" from the text.

A trader sitting in front of a chart displaying German share index DAX.
THOMAS LOHNES | Getty Images

The Russian ruble made major gains against the greenback. The currency started the session at 37.44 against the U.S. dollar but surged to trade as low as 36.65 after the Kremlin's announcement.

Poroshenko's press office said in a statement that a "mutual understanding was achieved concerning the steps which will enable the establishment of peace".

This comes as European Union ambassadors are set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of more sanctions against Russia. Pro-Russian separatists have been battling Kiev's forces in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbass region. Moscow has been accused by Kiev of sending troops into the region to fight alongside the rebels, which Russian officials have denied.

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Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Baltic nation of Estonia on Wednesday morning and said at a press conference that it was too early to tell what the cease-fire means. He added that his preference was for a strong, cooperative Russia.

Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank, said that he was inclined to not believe the statement from the Russian Kremlin due to its track record of "spin", and was minded to think the opposite.

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"Let's see if this holds...a halt to fighting, however temporary, is a positive." he said in research note after the first statement from Ukraine.

"Poroshenko will have to deliver on Putin's agenda, and I really struggle to see how that can be sold domestically in Ukraine ahead of parliamentary elections in October."