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The Group of Seven (G7, which is the G8-1, the one missing being Russia) has praised the peace deal signed in Minsk. RFE/RL reports:
The Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations has welcomed the Minsk agreements establishing a cease-fire in Ukraine as an “important opportunity” to find a political solution to the conflict.
In a statement on September 25, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States condemned violations of the September 5 cease-fire and called on Russia to withdraw all of its forces, weapons, and equipment from eastern Ukraine.
The G7 also commended Ukraine for passing legislation on amnesty and a “special status” for parts of the country’s east and welcomed the ratification of a free-trade agreement with the European Union, some provisions of which are being delayed until the end of 2015.
The countries said they would roll back sanctions against Russia when it meets its commitments according to the Minsk agreement and cease-fire.
In yesterday’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama said that the ceasefire was a way to bring about a political solution to the crisis:
These are simple truths, but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. We will reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.
Moreover, a different path is available – the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals this institution is designed to uphold. The recent cease-fire agreement in Ukraine offers an opening to achieve that objective. If Russia takes that path – a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people – then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges. That’s what the United States and Russia have been able to do in past years – from reducing our nuclear stockpiles to meet our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons. And that’s the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.
While the international community is praising the ceasefire, a few things need to be kept in mind. First is that the ceasefire is not holding. The second is that it does not resolve the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine and remains in possession of large parts of the east which are now governed by Moscow’s proxies. Are the ceasefire, the buffer zone, and the rest of the agreements from Minsk like the granting of special status to Donbass really just codifying the legitimacy of the Russian-backed militants and effectively freezing the conflict indefinitely? And if so, are the international leaders ok with this as long as the violence does not intensify?
UPDATED: Earlier today Reuters reported that Russian natural gas flow to Hungary, while at normal amounts, was below what was needed to meet increased demand. Now Reuters is reporting that Hungary has stopped all gas shipments to Ukraine, and shipments are suspended indefinitely:
“In order to sustain supply security and system balance the (Ukraine-Hungary border) hub must be switched in a way that all pipelines on the network are suitable for shipments in the direction of (Hungary),” [a statement from the gas operator] said.
It said the 6 billion cubic metre annual capacity for gas shipments from from Hungary to Ukraine is subject to technical and commercial conditions and is not a guaranteed capacity.
In today’s press conference, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that the government and economy need to be reformed, not only to fulfill the goals of the Euromaidan revolution but because corruption is, according to Poroshenko, as large a threat to Ukraine as Russian aggression in the east. The reform efforts will culminate in 2020 when Ukraine joins the European Union. RFE/RL has a list of selected quotes from the speech, excerpted below:
“Today, our eastern border is where the front line for united Europe lies. This is why the support for Ukraine from the world’s democratic countries and nations is so strong, as is the understanding that our courageous victory will be a victory for all of Europe.”
“Our plan is clearly called Strategy 2020, for only reforms can uplift the country that is unable to respond to the needs of its citizens with a total collapse being the only available alternative. Only reforms can meet revolutionary expectations of Ukrainian citizens — the driving, active part of our society — with powerful wave of protests being the only available alternative. Only reforms can be the answer to our potential international investors and the only available alternative to that is staying one-on-one with Russia.”
“In order to persevere, we need to break our neo-feudalistic political model, dismantle the mechanism that enabled a small circle of oligarchs and corrupt bureaucrats to make a fortune from privatizing the entire country, gutting it and tossing it to bleed. We are obliged to create a society where order prevails.”
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele has issued a statement in response to Poroshenko. Again, RFE/RL reports:
“We support Ukraine in its efforts to deliver on the necessary political and economic reforms to achieve the modernization of the country.
“Currently we are working with Ukraine on the implementation of the Association Agreement, which offers [a] blueprint for these reform[s] and modernization.
“The European Council has recently stated that the Association Agreement does not constitute the final goal of our cooperation.
“What is important right now is to focus on the immediate challenges the country is facing and on ways…to tackle them in the most effective way for the benefit of the people of Ukraine.
“It is for Ukraine to make its free and sovereign choices about its ambitions, orientation, and external relations.”
Journalist Maxim Eristavi is at President Petro Poroshenko’s first press conference, and it’s a little rough around the edges but has produced some interesting information.
According to Eristavi, Poroshenko is optimistic that rebel-held areas will hold local elections on December 7th.
Poroshenko has also confirmed that Ukraine is planning on applying for EU membership in 2020.
But then Poroshenko said a series of eyebrow-raising things:
Military experts inside the Ukrainian government and sources in the Ministry of Defense tell us that they believe that there are still a significant amount of Russian spies inside the government, particularly inside security-related departments like defense and military intelligence, and since all of Ukraine’s equipment was made in Russia, anything with communications or broadcasting capability may be compromised. Everyone we spoke to also said that the Russian and separatist artillery was far more effective than Ukrainian artillery because Ukraine lacks drones to properly target their weapons, whereas their enemy has employed a significant amount of drones for the same purposes.
This claim is still unverified:
Poroshenko also spoke about the weak hryvnia (more on this in a later update).
But then Poroshenko began to speak about the east, specifically, and what the plan was to end the crisis.
This is the line Poroshenko walks. He has to defeat the Russians without military support from his allies, and he has to do so while looking like he’s tough enough to do it on his own. Since Ukraine’s military is not yet up to the challenge, he has had to negotiate a way to freeze, or at least slow, the crisis — temporarily if he can, permanently if he cannot — and he has to do so while still looking like he is not surrendering to Russia and is maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity. With respect to the former regime, much of which is still in power, he has to find a way to find justice for the fallen without driving more fighters into the hands of the separatists, and without alienating more of the people who keep the peace in his country, like the police and some of the soldiers who may have supported Yanukovych. A pardon for those who will join the fight seems like the easiest way to do that.
And he has to do all of this without crashing the economy, and while still keeping reforms on track:
Mariupol news site 0629 reports that they have received reports from servicemen and residents that Russian or separatist fighters are shelling checkpoints to the north-east of the city with Grad rockets.
Mariupol residents have been asked to be extremely careful and not to approach military checkpoints.
At 13:30 (10:30 GMT) 0629 reported:
According to the Headquarters for the Defence of Mariupol, a checkpoint near the village of Talakovka is being shelled at the moment with Grad rockets.
Ukrainian soldiers are returning an appropriate response. There are no casualties. Measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the civilian population. The Headquarters for the Defence of Mariupol calls on citizens not to panic and to carry on with their daily activities.
An update at 13:47:
The shelling of checkpoints has resumed. 10th and 12th. Two 200s (killed). This is reported on the Facebook page of the blogger and activist Starshina Nechiporenko.
According to initial reports from medical workers, two wounded soldiers have been brought to Mariupol from Pavlopole – a private and a junior sergeant. The guys had multiple shrapnel wounds to the arms, legs and chests.
Translations by The Interpreter.
Interfax-Ukraine and UNIAN report that unknown assailants carried out a grenade attack in the Odessa suburb of Kotovka last night.
This is the first major incident of violence in the city, lying far west of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since the clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters that ended in the deaths of 48 people on May 2.
Interfax-Ukraine reports, (translated by The Interpreter):
During the night of September 24-25, unknowns shelled a checkpoint near the village of Kotovka in the Belyaevsky district of the Odessa region. According to initial reports, an RPG was used in the attack.
The checkpoint was manned by servicemen from the Ukrainian Navy. The press office of the Ukrainian Navy reported that the grenade had struck a defensive fortification and that there were no casualties.
As the grenade was, fired from the direction of Kotovka itself, the servicemen manning the checkpoint did not return fire.
UNIAN reports that a source in the Odessa branch of the Interior Ministry told them that the assailants approached the checkpoint in a car, and that law enforcement officers are now “working through a pool of suspects.”
Reuters reports that President Petro Poroshenko has announced that he will propose reform measures today with the aim of enabling Ukraine to apply for EU membership in six years time.
Speaking to Ukrainian judges, Poroshenko said:
“I will present my vision of Ukraine’s development, our strategy for the period up to 2020.
It provides for 60 separate reforms and special programmes, which will prepare Ukraine for applying for membership in the European Union in six years time.”
Interfax-Ukraine reports that, on his Twitter account, Poroshenko wrote (translated by The Interpreter):
“Yesterday was the first day in many months when Ukraine didn’t suffer a single fatality. This is the first day of a real ceasefire. Glory to Ukraine!”
On the official website of the Presidential Administration, Poroshenko wrote further:
“Believe it or not, no one was killed, no one was wounded. Over the last day there were two small arms shootings in Debaltsevo. And the artillery is silent, the multiple rocket launchers are silent.”
However there were multiple reports yesterday evening of shelling near the government-held airport in Donetsk, suggesting that President Poroshenko is perhaps being over-optimistic about the state of the ceasefire.