Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko has ‘U-turned’ over his announcement of a ‘permanent ceasefire’ this morning, with confusion now surrounding the matter in Eastern Ukraine after the statement was redacted at 1100 GMT. Despite this, there are no indications that fighting had yet ceased in the war-torn country.
Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko had originally announced that an agreement has been reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a “permanent ceasefire”, but now instead says a ceasefire agreement had been reached. A spokesman for Putin said their views on how to de-escalate the situation “coincided to a substantial degree,” as reported by Reuters this morning.
Of the ‘permanent ceasefire’ and it’s sudden reversal by the Rump Ukrainian government, the chairman of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic said: “This is not the first time that the Ukrainian authorities declare halting of combat activities. The previous such truce resulted in the regrouping of the Ukrainian security forces and the blockade of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Slovyansk.
“We have always supported peace processes for settling the conflict. This step could be considered a prelude to peace talks. But our demands remain the same as before: the full withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the DPR and LPR territory. It is only after that that we are prepared to hold negotiations”.
Negotiations have been taking place in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where both the leaders met last week. The so-called ‘cease-fire in the Donbass’ announcement came as accusations were made of Russian troops occupying the Donbass Region, and is perfectly timed to spike the guns of NATO leaders gathering in the United Kingdom to discuss the Ukranian crisis.
Although this glimmer of good hope is encouraging in the six-month conflict that has claimed over two thousand lives, there are no signs that the cease-fire is being observed immediately. While the Russian Interfax news agency reported the willingness of pro-Russian separatists to lay down arms if the Government of Ukraine was willing to observe the cease-fire at 0915 GMT today, a further report 25 minutes later detailed that fighting was ongoing at Donetsk airport. The airport is a crucial strategic asset and has been hotly contested by the Rebels and Ukraine Government troops.
Reuters news agency quoted a volunteer commander in Donbass as having said: “At the moment that journalists told me of a ceasefire, we came under fire twice,” further indicating the cease-fire though agreed is not yet in force.
The UK NATO delegation tweeted this morning: “All practical civilian & military coop between NATO and Russia is currently suspended”.