Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande met in Minsk, Belarus, in an attempt to end the war in east Ukraine. The four emerged after 16 hours, all agreeing to a ceasefire in the east starting on February 15.
The deal is similar to the one agreed upon by the four countries in September. Here are the main points from the BBC:
Ceasefire to begin at 00:01 local time on 15 February
Heavy weapons to be withdrawn, beginning on 16 February and completed in two weeks
All prisoners to be released; amnesty for those involved in fighting
Withdrawal of all foreign troops and weapons from Ukrainian territory. Disarmament of all illegal groups
Ukraine to allow resumption of normal life in rebel areas, by lifting restrictions
Constitutional reform to enable decentralisation for rebel regions by the end of 2015
Ukraine to control border with Russia if conditions met by the end of 2015
However, as the talks progressed, Kiev military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said over 50 tanks, 40 missile systems, and 40 armored vehicles from Russia crossed into Ukraine.
“The enemy continues to strengthen its forces in the most dangerous areas, especially in north-east Luhansk region and in the direction of Debaltseve,” he claimed.
Putin made a sly remark about borders after the conference.
“We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight 15 February,” he announced to the media. “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.”
Christopher Miller at Mashable reported Putin demanded Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve, the city 50 miles north of Donetsk, “lay down their arms, and retreat peacefully.” Poroshenko quickly shot down that suggestion. The rebels consistently claim they have the key city surrounded, but Kiev denies it. Miller also reports that the document does not mention Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula that Russia invaded and annexed in March.
Russia also denies ever sending troops, weapons, and machinery into Ukraine to support the pro-Russian separatists despite the pile of evidence. CNN’s Jim Sciutto made a valuable point:
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 12, 2015
The question leads to many more. Who provided the foreign troops and weapons? Will NATO, the EU, and the US hold Russia’s feet to the fire?
Merkel said the agreement gave her a “glimmer of hope,” but acknowledged there is more work to do. Poroshenko specifically concentrated on the border portion of the deal.
“It’s very important that, for the first time, the implementation of the Minsk protocol is spelled out in detail in the part that deals with the closure of the national border,” he explained. “It clearly stipulates that after the end of political settlement, from the first day after local elections, control (over the border) has to be passed to representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Ukrainian border guards. And at the second stage, Ukrainian border guards have to fully restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and Ukrainian control over the national border by the end of this year.”