Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

EU Heads of State and Government meet at the European Council on 12 February 2015, in Brussels. The main topics are the conflict in Ukraine, counter terrorism and the economic situation. From left to right: Mr Petro POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine; Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council. (European Council TV newsroom, 12/02/2015)

EU Heads of State and Government meet at the European Council on 12 February 2015, in Brussels. The main topics are the conflict in Ukraine, counter terrorism and the economic situation. From left to right: Mr Petro POROSHENKO, President of Ukraine; Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council. (European Council TV newsroom, 12/02/2015)

When the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that the Minsk ceasefire deal was important “but not definitive”, at the morrow of the agreement, everyone knew she was right. Minsk agreement was a crucial happening, in which a big step towards peace between Russia and Ukraine was taken given the delicate moment, but only a step. The uncertain situation of these days says it all, as still it remains unclear whether or not a real ceasefire ever took place.

All news coming from the Eastern Ukrainian front are often in contrast with each other and it seems that no step ahead can hold out without a step back to follow. Minsk agreement’s points were substantially a ceasefire which began at midnight on February 16 (local time) and included the following: the withdrawal of heavy weapons in a two-week period starting from February 17, the withdrawal of all foreign militias from Ukrainian territory, the amnesty for all prisoners involved in fighting, the lifting of government restrictions on rebel-held areas and measures regarding the decentralisation for rebel regions and the control of the orders by the end of 2015.

In the late hours of last Saturday the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists swapped nearly 200 prisoners, in an action that gave hopes for the peace plan to be successful at first. Kiev reportedly exchanged 52 rebels for 140 soldiers near the frontline outside the village of Zholobok, some 12 miles west of the rebel-held city Luhansk. Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, wrote on his Facebook page that 139 soldiers had been freed, including some involved in the fierce defence of Donetsk airport and others who had fought in the strategic town of Debaltseve.

Furthermore, the second point of the Minsk agreement started to bear fruits in the last days apparently. Kiev‘s government and rebels in eastern Ukraine have finally agreed to start pulling back heavy weapons from the frontline. Pro-Russian rebels began to withdraw heavy weapons from the frontline in east Ukraine last Sunday, although the process will not be completed until 8 March, five days later than the deadline set in Minsk. The agreement was signed by Luhansk rebel leader Igor Plotnitsky and by Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, the latter from his hospital bed, after he was wounded in the ankle during a conflict at Debaltseve, as reported by the BBC. Weapons are to be pulled back on both sides, in order to create a buffer zone up to 140 kilometres wide.

The two measures, which were both engineered by the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine during Minsk peace-talks with Russia, gave hope for the ceasefire to hold at first, but the situation might be way more complex now. The prisoners’ swap took place just hours before two people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, a happening that can make the peace deal even more shaky. What is more, the weapons’ withdrawal conceals a complex and delicate equilibrium. Indeed there has never been a confirmation from Kiev or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is tasked with monitoring compliance with the cease-fire, so far.

In addition, Reuters reported the government in Kiev saying armed columns had crossed the border from Russia towards the separatist-held areas to to reinforce the troops on Sunday. Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a military train carrying 60 armed vehicles including tanks had arrived in the town of Amvrosiivka from Russia last Saturday. A convoy of military equipment had later crossed the border near Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, as monitored by Reuters.

Generally speaking, it’s indeed the first point listed in the agreement signed a couple of weeks ago in Minsk, Belarus, to arouse concerns. Better to turn doubts into questions: has ever a real ceasefire took place? Many say that Minsk ceasefire was on paper only, as it was breached from minute 1. There were reports of shelling near Donetsk airport last Sunday. Explosions were heard in the main rebel-held city Donetsk in the early hours on Sunday and Kiev officials say the rebels used artillery and rockets to attack a Ukrainian camp.

The European Union is embarrassed, and it is basically losing patience. The statement from the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, which was released last weekend, makes all this embarrassment clear. “Since last Sunday the European Union has been devoting all efforts to make the Minsk II Agreement work”, Mr. Tusk stated, as if this opening was a declaration of intents. “Today, we have to face the reality that almost one week later there have been more than 300 violations of the ceasefire. People are still dying”, he said. “We are clearly reaching a point when further diplomatic efforts will be fruitless unless credibly backed up by further action”, he then added.

The situation is critical, and very crucial is a point that Mr. Tusk finally touched in his statement: further steps. What are the right ones? “I am now consulting European Union leaders on the next steps”, Mr. Tusk said. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, had said ahead of a meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond that Washington is considering further sanctions.

It still remains to be seen though whether the EU will be forced to go back to the sanctions tactics if the truce is not respected.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

A voice from Syria: the positive prospect of clinical research despite the excruciating circumstances

The EU Commission does nothing about the food retailing oligopoly

EU readies for eventual annulment of the Turkish agreement on immigrants-refugees

Can We(esterners) ever understand (the) Chinese

The EU Parliament slams Commission on economic governance

Juncker Investment Plan for Europe welcomed by European Youth Forum

Spirit unlimited

Switzerland to introduce strict restrictions on executive pay

The 13th round of TTIP negotiations hits a wall of intense protests and growing concerns

Refugee crisis update: EU still lacks solidarity as Hungary and Slovakia refuse to accept EU Court’s decision

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Trailing the US-EU economic confrontation

Is it true that the G20 wants to arrest tax evasion of multinationals?

Conflicting statistics and bad banks haunt the Eurozone

The EU risks trade relations with China over the Tata hype about steel

The European Parliament x-rays the troika’s doings

How ‘small’ is Europe in Big Data?

Has the EU economy truly revived from the financial crisis?

Jo Cox’s murderer believed the ‘leave’ campaign leaders that the ‘remain’ vote is treason

A Sting Exclusive: “The challenge of Society’s digital transformation”, Spanish Minister of Spain for Industry, Energy and Tourism José Manuel Soria live from European Business Summit 2015

Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner in charge of Justice

The New EU-US “Shield” for data privacy is full of holes

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile Connect availability hits 2B

Long live Eurozone’s bank supervisor down with the EU budget supremo

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

The EU threatens to impose extra import duties on Chinese products

Court of Auditors: EU spending infested with errors well above the materiality threshold of 2%

Inegalitarian taxation on labour haunts Europe’s social model

New round of bargaining for the 2014 EU budget late in autumn

What are the real targets of EU’s efforts to fight tax evasion?

Does the Greek deal strengthen the Eurozone? Markets react cautiously

A new European banking space is born this year

The ECB still protects the banks at the expense of the EU taxpayers

Russia and the EU ‘trade’ natural gas supplies and commercial concessions in and out of Ukraine

The EU responds to US challenges by fining Apple with €13 billion

The EU Commission openly repudiates the austere economic policies

EU and African leaders to jointly tackle the migration crisis across the Mediterranean

Eurozone: A Sluggish economy offers no extra jobs

EU: 13 major banks may pay fines 10% of worldwide turnover

Eurozone: The crisis hit countries are again subsidizing the German and French banks

European Business Summit 2013: Where Business and Politics shape the future

The Chinese spirit

Trade protectionism and cartels threaten democracy

The G7 fails to agree on growth but protects the big banks

The European Internet is not neutral and neither is the Commissioner

“Is Europe innovative? Oh, Yes we are very innovative!”, Director General of the European Commission Mr Robert-Jan Smits on another Sting Exclusive

A Sting Exclusive: “Sustainable development goals: what role for business?” Commissioner Mimica asks live from European Business Summit 2015

Theresa May’s global Britain against Philip Hammond’s Brexit fog

Resolving banks with depositors’ money?

The time is up but the game is still not over for Greece: negotiations continue in anticipation of a new deal

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

Auditors say EU spending delivers limited value for money but the timing of their report poses questions

On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: UNFCCC Secretariat Launches Forest Information Hub

War of words in Davos over Eurozone’s inflation/deflation

Businesses succeed internationally

EU out to conquer African Union summit

Why and how Germany had it again its own way in Cyprus

The European Youth raises their voices this week in Brussels at Yo!Fest 2015

JADE Handover Ceremony at the European Parliement

EU Parliament: Follow the fraudulent money and confiscate it

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s