A New Ukraine Ceasefire? Our Summary And Analysis

February 12, 2015
Russia's Vladimir Putin, Belarus' Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko in Minsk | Reuters / Grigory Dukor

The big news of the day is the apparent diplomatic breakthrough that promises to be the first step toward ending the crisis in Ukraine. The deal was negotiated in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. But will the deal really bring about a ceasefire?

For our complete breakdown and the latest news about Ukraine, see our live coverage: Ukraine Live Day 360: Ceasefire Announced After All-Night Minsk Talks. Below is our summary of the Minsk agreements and our analyses of the key points of the deal:

Hypothetically, the deal calls for:

  • the withdrawal of heavy artillery and rockets from behind the “line of contact,” the front lines of battle.
  • the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
  • the return of all POWs on both sides, and amnesty for any who have committed crimes.
  • the restoration of social benefits, local elections in accordance to the Ukrainian constitution, and taxation to the areas currently controlled by the Russian-backed rebels.
  • the return of control of the border to the Ukrainian military.
  • the monitoring of the deal by the OSCE.

For complete details about what the deal entails, click here:

The problem — it’s not clear that either side is using the same definitions for any of the terms I’ve described above.

  • Putin says there are no Russian troops in Ukraine (there are), and so will he withdraw troops he says are not there? Last time most of the troops and tanks stayed, and Putin called them local fighters.
  • THE BIG PROBLEM? The ceasefire starts on Saturday, the fighting appears to be raging ahead of the ceasefire, and there is a big dispute about the line of demarcation. Ukrainian troops are nearly surrounded in a town called Debaltsevo, northeast of Donetsk. Putin says that the rebels believe that according to this deal those soldiers will “lay down their arms.” Ukraine appears to disagree. And so if fighting continues there, then the ceasefire will be broken before it has begun, which in the past has been used as an excuse by the Russians and their proxies to continue the fight everywhere.
  • A key POW is Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian airforce pilot captured by rebels, kidnapped across the border into Russia, and who is now facing murder charges. Moscow does not view her as a POW, but Ukraine does? Will she be released? She’s on her 62nd day of hunger strike, so if she is not released she may soon die.
  • The border areas that are no longer in control of the Ukrainian military are deep inside the territory of Russian-backed fighters. Since the separatists believe that a key provision of this agreement is the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from separatist-controlled areas, how are these two parts of the deal compatible?
  • Ukraine may not have the authority to give amnesty to those responsible for war crimes or those who shot down civilian airliner MH17. How will that play out in the Netherlands, since so many of the MH17 victims were Dutch? The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs is apparently outraged by the deal that might give amnesty to those who recklessly killed so many of their own citizens.

We were skeptical of the last ceasefire deal inked in Minsk, but on the surface this one looks even more likely to fail.

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