In the warzone in eastern Ukraine, there is once again an attempt being made to establish a permanent ceasefire. According to information from Kyiv, mediators negotiated an agreement with Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that is scheduled to go into effect on Monday, July 27.
Making Ukraine Ceasefire a Reality
The previous Wednesday the Presidential Office in Kyiv announced that a “complete and all-embracing cessation of fire” should come into force at 1 o’clock on Monday. The agreement was reached during a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group (TKG) and would finally advance the provisions of the Paris Summit of December 2019.
Since 2014, the Ukrainian army on the one hand, and Russian and Pro-Russian fighters of two unrecognized, illegal “people’s republics” on the other, have been facing each other on the 450-kilometer line of demarcation in eastern Ukraine. The additional measures are now — according to the OSCE — primarily focused on a complete ban on the use of firearms, drones, attacks and sabotage as well as the placement of “heavy weapons” in and around residential areas.
What Happens if Fighters Break the Ceasefire?
In the event of an infringement, “disciplinary measures” should be enforced and the management of the TKG should be informed, who in turn will inform all TKG participants. It was also agreed that in the event of an attack by one side, these mechanisms must first be used before “counter-fire” is permitted, and this too is only permitted on the orders of the commanders of the respective commanders of the army or the fighters.
The latter aims to introduce more transparency and meticulous accountability into the hybrid war with – especially on the part of the fighters – unclear command structures.
It remains to be seen whether this will succeed in a conflict that has now turned into a positional war. Around two dozen attempts for a ceasefire have so far failed after only a short time.
A ceasefire that is stuck to by all actors involved is an essential prerequisite for a new Ukraine crisis summit, which had already been planned in Berlin in the spring. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron seek to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together again.
Poroshenko: No Clear Roadmap to Peace Currently Exists
Meanwhile, Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko — now head of the European Solidarity opposition party — stated on Thursday that he was ready to support Zelensky in his peace efforts, however, criticized the current administration had brought the peace process “to a standstill”, as no clear roadmap existed. As a result, Russia has been “creeping towards the annexation of the region” by issuing Russian passports to many Eastern Ukrainians.
According to Poroshenko, the principle of “safety first” hence needed to apply to Ukraine, and a UN blue helmet mission was needed to “be an integral part of such a road map.”
The War in the Donbas
Ukrainian government troops have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donbas mining district since spring 2014. The government in Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of providing financial and arms support to the insurgents. Moscow rejects this. According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past six years. A peace plan agreed with Franco-German mediation in 2015 provides for elections and gradual reintegration of the region into Ukraine after an armistice.
Nonetheless, the ceasefire now will be highly volatile mainly as it seems dubious how any “disciplinary measures” were enforced if a party violate the agreement. Putin has shown time and time again that he does not play according to the rules of the international community and that sanctions and even exclusions (such as from the G8) affect him only to a limited extent.
The Western deterrence against Russian aggression has been deteriorating for years, not only in Ukraine. Massive Western pressure is particularly needed here to force Putin to make severe concessions to Ukraine, as the real goal of Russia in Eastern Ukraine remains apparent. It is a goal the West must never accept.