On the heels of a deadly account Wednesday, Russia, Ukraine, and EU reached a ceasefire agreement built upon last Septembers talks in Minsk. The trilateral leadership promises to respect sovereignty by reestablishing boundaries, examine winter gas prices, and the Russian impact of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia all declared and signed a new ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine meant to prevent pro-Moscow rebels and the Ukrainian military from fighting with deadly force. This round of ceasefire talks was reached in Minsk, Belarus—the same location as the first attempt in September 2014.
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As previously reported, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande pushed for peace at last weekend’s Munich Security Conference and made a trip to the Kremlin in an effort to highlight the need for diplomatic measures over military might. The news comes on the heels of the U.S. offering to supply weaponry to the Ukrainian military in order to insure victory over the pro-rebels.
At the conference, Merkel proclaimed the U.S. actions short-sighted. “The problem is that I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily.” The European Union seeks a more diplomatic response in order to create a stable future where war is not imminent.
After 16 hours of negotiations, the German politician admitted to the press and official offices that providing a framework was not an instant fix. “I am under no illusion, we are under no illusion – there is still an enormous amount of work to be done.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier agreed with Merkel after the “extremely difficult negotiations” and hopes that the future will not “undermine the agreements reached today.” Before the negotiations began, Hollande believed “the coming hours will be decisive” in how to approach the Ukrainian war and conflict.
Reuters reports that one of the main agreements is the pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces moving lines back to the original “demarcation line” established in September. Additionally, Ukraine will gain back the eastern border, but only after “consultation with the rebels and only after the regions gain more autonomy under constitutional reform by the end 2015.” Agreements were reached through supervision by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
A Ukrainian military spokesman believes that a major cache of weaponry was moved into the eastern border area of the country Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, including 50 tanks, 40 missile systems, and 40 armored vehicles. While no official word of actual number count has been received, Moscows finds the accusations to be unfounded and untrue.
However, Russian-speaking soldiers with no insignia camouflage have been spotted around Debaltseve while Moscow has started military exercises with over 30 missile regimes along the border. Because Debaltseve is a transportation hub providing access to rebel-held and self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, the agreement is crucial to ending deadly attacks. Just before the summit on Wednesday, a skirmish killed 19 Ukrainians.
Increased activity leads Kiev and NATO to believe Moscow is supplying pro-Russian rebels with men and weaponry. Speaking to the press, Ukrainian President Poroshenko also referenced the need for all foreign military to leave the country.
The official declaration states the EU, Ukraine, and Russia “reaffirm their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and believes there “is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement.”
Each member of the signed treaty will implement proper usage of the Package of Measure described and planned in the September 5, September 19, and February 15 talks. Imperatively, the leaders “endorse the continuation of trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia on energy issues in order to achieve follow-up stages to the gas winter package.” The price of gas during winter rises dramatically for citizens and the EU and Ukraine hope to find a beneficial presentation for all three parties. They will continue talks on the Russian impact around the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the Ukraine and EU.
Fighting against the pro-Russian rebels created a budgetary strain on the young European country.
In return for agreeing to end the fighting, the International Monetary Fund offered $40-billion to help Ukraine momentarily stay afloat. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde stated that the group “provisionally agreed a $17.5 billion facility with Ukraine, part of a $40 billion funding package. And Germany and France will help restore the conflict affected areas banking system through technical expertise. One viable option is an international mechanism that will involve social transfers of non-market goods and/or services.
Once the agreements were reached and announced on Thursday, the Russian ruble also saw a jump before falling down slightly. International sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis holds the economy in a stalemate. Bloomberg notes the ruble is expected to rebound if the peace talk turns into decisive action since sanctions would ease.
“Today’s agreement is not a comprehensive settlement and certainly no breakthrough. However, after weeks of violence, Minsk II could mark a step away from this spiral of military escalation and could lead to political impetus. If there is a chance of this happening then our efforts have been worth it,” said Steinmeier. The statement mirrored the German Chancellor’s assertions at the conference last week.
Currently, Merkel believes “we have now a glimmer of hope” and Hollande holds on to “serious hope, even if all is not done.” Emphasizing a “joint humanitarian and economic space” through promises of maintaining OSCE principles and international law remained important in progressing hope into action.
Not everyone is convinced, though. President Putin wants containment from all sides in the next several days. “We proceed from the assumption that all parties will show restraint in the nearest future, before the start of the ceasefire.”
Ukrainian President Poroshenko offers a more measured response to the news. “We did not agree to any ultimatums and stated firmly that the ceasefire that is announced is unconditional.” Speaking to reporters after the talks, he felt “we were presented with various unacceptable conditions of withdrawal and surrender.” Kiev focuses on national sovereignty as described by the Peace of Westphalia, a basis of the EU’s own philosophy of shared sovereignty where internal affairs are subject to oversight if violating another nation’s space.
When asked why the ceasefire talks took so long to reach a meeting, Putin blames Kiev’s lack of willingness to negotiate with all parties. “I think this is due to the fact that the Kiev authorities still refuse to make direct contact with the representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk peoples' republics.”
However, he also believes that “we have managed to agree on the main issues.” If the agreements remain viable over a long period of time may be a different matter entirely. During the Minsk summit, the leaders all promised to establish an oversight mechanism that will regularly meet and those in attendance will be foreign ministry senior officers.
The latest ceasefire will begin February 15.
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