Ukraine: Truce Reached, What Next?
Olga SHEDROVA | 08.09.2014 | WORLD

Ukraine: Truce Reached, What Next?

The armistice reached by contact group on September 5 in Minsk was the first peace initiative reached in Ukraine to be accepted by all parties. It’s a very positive move but there is a slim chance the ceasefire would endure. 

* * *

The agreement envisioned prisoners’ exchange and open routes for humanitarian aid, the parties ordered ceasefire to be breached soon after. As Donetsk and Lugansk self-defence forces reported, the chasteners continued to shoot. The ceasefire was breached in Gorlovka, Makeevka and street fighting took place in Dzerzhinsk. As of midnight, Sept. 6, the Ukrainian government forces opened fire at Makeevka with dense smoke seen coming from mine N88. According to witnesses’ reports, artillery fire was heard in the Petropavlovsk district of Donetsk. The ability of Poroshenko to control «private armies» is questioned. Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of Neo-Nazi Pravy Sector, said he would carry the order out adding that the preparations for combat were underway and he planned «to free Donbass from occupying forces». He added there was no doubt the enemy will be defeated. Journalist E. Belozerskaya made no bones about it saying that Poroshenko has not given the national radicals any legal status making them free to act like gangs and do what they want. 

The militarist rhetoric spurs mistrust on the part of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Prime Minister Alexander Zaharchenko, the Prime Minister of the Donetsk Republic, said Novorossia would agree to cease fire in case the Ukraine’s military does the same. The ceasefire is related to other agreements, for instance, prisoners exchange and the status of self-proclaimed entities. Igor Plotnystkiy, the leader of the Lugansk People’s Republic, says the accord is concluded only to stop bloodshed, it does not mean the Republic refuses to change its policy aimed at sovereignty outside the state of Ukraine. 

In his turn Poroshenko says the Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are not issues on the agenda. It’s not clear how to narrow the differences between two opposite stances. Yulia Timoshenko still enjoys significant influence. She rejected the «Putin’s plan» as a way to convert Ukraine into Transdniestria. The contact group plan does not include a Ukraine’s representative at large to complicate things. 

* * *

The implementation of Minsk peace accords will influence the outcome of autumn parliamentary election. The people of Ukraine are subject to militaristic propaganda and calls for bloodshed are heard here and there. Anti-European rhetoric is also getting stronger along with the calls for making short work of «Kremlin’s agents» and «traitors». On September 5 protesters in Kiev demanded to stop the transit of Russian gas to Europe. They said if they don’t carry out their obligations, why should we? Let them give us three nuclear bombs or comply with agreements. No matter how ridiculous it may sound, the meaning is clear. This kind of sentiments greatly complicates things for the Poroshenko’s ‘peace party» hoping for sweeping victory in October. 

The failure of «anti-terrorist operation» will be used to the advantage of those who put the blame on the supreme commander. Poroshenko has already started attempts to re-direct the discontent by punishing scapegoats. Deputy Defence Minister Bogdan Butsa was dismissed being accused of failure to provide logistics for the fighting forces. There will be other officials to be fired. The end of war may not benefit the presidential supporters. The economy is in doldrums accompanied by rising foreign debt and depletion of gold reserves, weak national currency and reduced industrial production, hiked public utilities costs, questioned preparedness for heating season and living standards going down. The war is blamed for all these woes. If peace prevails there will be nothing to be used as a cause for economic collapse. It will dash all the hopes for winning the election. 

The President’s team is not united. Making comments on the Minsk accords Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said peace should be achieved not according to the Russian President’s plan but rather on the basis of the Plan offered by the President of Ukraine and supported by the US and the EU. He means the so-called 15 point Poroshenko’s plan which actually is nothing else but an ultimatum demanding the surrender of Donbass. It is aimed at emasculation of the Minsk accords and continuation of combat actions. In her turn Yulia Timoshenko initiated a referendum on NATO membership. Another opponent of President and Verkhovna Rada MP Oleg Lyashko said that the armistice will make the enemy stronger and lead to increased Russian presence while «patriots» are doomed to slavery and dishonor.

With rising voices calling for war Poroshenko appears to be unable to stop combat actions without being threatened by coup. With troops withdrawn from Donbass thousands of armed and angry people will move to Kiev to be joined by advocates of using force for solving the problem of Novorossia. 

* * *

The international situation is not right for long-term peaceful settlement. The Wales September 4-5 NATO summit actually declared war on Russia. In the declaration the Alliance states «We condemn in the strongest terms Russia's escalating and illegal military intervention in Ukraine and demand that Russia stop and withdraw its forces from inside Ukraine and along the Ukrainian border. This violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is a serious breach of international law and a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. We do not and will not recognize Russia's illegal and illegitimate 'annexation' of Crimea. We demand that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; withdraw its troops; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border. Russia must use its influence with the separatists to de-escalate the situation and take concrete steps to allow for a political and a diplomatic solution which respects Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and internationally recognized borders». NATO has pledged some 15 million euros to Ukraine with several of the bloc’s member states pledging separate bilateral support and military cooperation involving medical supplies, as well as lethal and nonlethal military equipment.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a "comprehensive and tailored package of measures," including the donation of 15 million euros «through NATO» at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian President on September 4, the first day of the NATO summit in Wales. He said that this would be in addition to other measures such as advising Ukraine on defense reforms and further bilateral aid. «This is about improvement of logistics, the improvement of command and control, the improvement of communications, and cyber defense,» Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said. Poroshenko claimed that some of the NATO member states said during bilateral consultations they are ready to supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal arms, including «high precision weapons,» as well as with medical equipment. No official confirmation of the agreement on provision of such weapons has been made by NATO or any of its states. 

The summit said NATO is committed to growing military presence and formation of a new rapid response force to include the military of Great Britain, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands. The mission is to counter the «aggression» on the part of Russia. The European participants endorsed the militarization in the vicinity of Russian borders only after Washington emphasized the need to meet the «Russian threat». It’s especially important for the White House to demonstrate that the fears have justification. For this purpose it needs the war to go on. At the close of a two-day NATO summit on September 5, President Obama expressed doubts that new ceasefire in Ukraine would hold and promised a new round of sanctions to keep pressure on Russia to respect its neighbor's borders. "We are hopeful, but based on past experience also skeptical that in fact the separatists will follow through and that Russia will stop violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Obama said. "It has to be tested." This kind of rhetoric against the backdrop of Washington’s threats to toughen the sanctions against Russia and talks about putting Ukraine under the NATO’s umbrella lead to the continuation of conflict. 

The demands to hold talks were voiced in the West only after another failure of anti-terrorist threat. The European Union and the United States agreed to indirectly recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as equal partners at the talks. Ukraine is promised a military and financial aid package. Kiev may use the chance for regrouping the forces before launching another offensive.

RELATED ARTICLES