Russian, Ukrainian, French and German leaders have reached a ceasefire agreement to end fighting in Ukraine, after 16 hours of joint negations in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The ceasefire will take effect on Sunday, February 15th. President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced the breakthrough, saying, “There is also the political settlement. The first thing is constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass. There are also border issues. Finally, there are a whole range of economic and humanitarian issues.”
The deal was brokered with the direct involvement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, who stated that the deal touched on all the hot topics, including border control, future economic relations and decentralization. The next step for the two leaders is to ask for EU support for the accord.
The agreement’s main points include the ending of all fighting at midnight between the 14th and 15th of February, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the conflict area starting on the 17th, the release of POWs, the dispersion of rebel forces, withdrawal of foreign militias from Ukrainian territory, disarmament of illegal militias, eventual control of the border by Ukraine and further meetings to ensure follow-though.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced: “The main thing which has been achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared without any conditions at all a general ceasefire.”
Despite lifting of ongoing tensions, the cease-fire is still fragile. The key points will be difficult to put into place on the ground and will require a huge time commitment. “All the points require additional approval, and for this reason there will be no meetings and new agreements if any violations take place,” said rebel leader Aleksander Zakharchenko, who also claimed that the agreement reflects a victory for his forces. It is expected to be particularly difficult to reestablish Ukrainian sovereignty along the border with Russia, which has been the causeway for rebel forces throughout the conflict. President Poroshenko stated that Kiev will only regain full control of the border by the end of 2015.
People in Donetsk, who have suffered ongoing violence for months, were wary of the peace agreement. Some supporters of the rebels were even disappointed; the Russian right-wing publication “Sputnik i Pogrom” called the Minsk treaty a “betrayal of all that the rebels fought for, including some of our readers.”
The need for a final and lasting cease-fire was felt by all sides involved. The ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian military and Russia-supported rebel forces in Ukraine has already claimed more than 5,300 lives. Russia was further pressured by ongoing US- and EU-imposed sanctions, which have already driven the value of the ruble to a significant low and caused an economic recession in Russia.