Eastern Ukraine: Is the latest ceasefire somehow different?

There is another round of ceasefire from September 1 on Eastern Ukraine. Is this somehow different from the previous “ceasefires”, or how do you read this agreement? Read few comments.

Taras KuzioResearch Associate, Centre for Political and Regional Studies, Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta

The only difference from Minsk 1 and 2 is that Putin is running out of options as his plans for a New Russia completely failed when Ukraine’s Russophones did not support the project. Indeed, far more Russian speakers are fighting for the Ukrainian side than the separatist because this is not an ethnic “civil war” but a clash of civilisations between those who have a Soviet identity and want to remain within the Russkij Mir and those who do not and wish to join Europe. Sanctions and low oil prices are also hurting Russia.

At the same time the new agreement will not impact upon Putins overall strategic goals no matter how unrealistic they are. Russian officers run an invasion force that controls the separatists and refuses to withdraw, refuses to free all Ukrainian prisoners, return the frontier to Ukrainian control or permit local elections in October to be held. The new agreement will not implement these 4 aspects of Minsk-2.

Russia’s unrealistic demands include regime change in Kyiv and the installation of a “Ukrainian Kadyrov” ruling a “Bosnianised” federal state completely within the Russkii Mir. Three factors make this unrealistic. First, the annexation of the Crimea is viewed as a stab in the back. Second, the invasion of eastern Ukraine mobilised Russian speaking patriotism and galvanised overall Ukrainian European national identity; in other words reducing the numbers supporting a Little Russian Identity within the Russkij Mir. Third, Ukrainian views today of Russia and Putin are very poor and support for EU and NATO membership is very high; in fact support for the latter is higher than in Slovenia, Hungary and Latvia when they joined in 2004.

The EU wants quick fixes to the crisis so that the problem will go away. But it will not go away as long as Putin is alive and as long as he is alive there will be war in the Donbas and occupation of the Crimea. If he reneged on either of these or both he would be finished and his regime would collapse.

Stephen BittnerProfessor of History, Sonoma State University

No. I wouldn’t put too much stock in renewed ceasefires. It’s not clear what they’ve accomplished in the past, except to allow Putin to claim he is trying to stop the bloodshed. The facts on the ground, of course, are very different. We hear separatist leaders speaking about fighters among their ranks form Mariupol, and about the necessity of “liberating” the port city. This does not bode well for any cessation of hostilities.

Orysia LutsevychManager, Ukraine Forum, Chatham House

This agreement is a tactical ceasefire. This is not a peace agreement. Both sides of the conflict are moving further away from its resolution. By declaring local ‘elections’ on 18 October separatists de facto violate Minsk agreement. As Russia continues its supply and military support, the escalation will most likely resume as the separatists will try to get more territory before their local ‘elections’.

Sean RobertsLecturer in International Relations and Politics, University of Portsmouth

From one perspective, the micro conditions on the ground have changed. Both sides have routinely violated the terms of the Minsk II cease fire agreement brokered in February 2015. Recent OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) reports on the ground in and around the break-away Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) show a deteriorating situation, including increasing use of heavily artillery and multiple launch rocket systems by both sides.

However, when viewed from the larger, macro perspective nothing has changed. The ceasefire remains shaky at best, although seasonal factors may account for the summer’s spike in fighting. The real problem is that the conflict appears to be in a situation of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ – periods of hot and cold conflict, but without any obvious way to resolve the crisis. Neither Russia or the West can back away from Ukraine, without facing serious repercussions, so unless there is a significant shift in circumstances (internal political changes in Ukraine or Russia, a change in US thinking, etc.) the conflict will likely flare up again. In the meantime, Ukraine and the EU need to ensure uninterrupted gas supply during winter months, and this may partly explain the timing of the new agreement.

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