Ukraine calls for ceasefire in Donbass region

Wed 23 Aug 2017

Ukraine calls for ceasefire in Donbass region

On 22 August Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, which will commence on 23 August. The proposal was made through a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron. They all voiced their support for a lasting ceasefire in order to allow children in eastern Ukraine to attend school, both the Kremlin and Poroshenko’s press service said. 

Poroshenko’s presidential office stated that the truce "will lead to sustainable improvement of the security situation to benefit schoolchildren and the entire civilian population of Donbass." The Ukrainian president announced his call for the ceasefire at the opening of a renovated musical theater in Syevyerodonetsk in the Luhansk region. He said he wanted to demonstrate Kyiv's desire for peace. Several ceasefire deals have been enforced, without much success, since Russia-backed separatists seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014. The previous ceasefire deal collapsed within days of its signing.

Recent developments
The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 2,700 civilians have been killed in the Donbass conflict since the beginning of hostilities. Casualties are even higher when one includes military dead and also those that go unreported on the separatist side. A UN estimate puts the number at more than 10,000 since the beginning of the conflict, in a country of 45 million people.

Both Poroshenko and Putin have rejected any talk of changing the Minsk-2 agreement, as this would undermine their credibility. Neither of them is interested in taking formal responsibility for Donbass. Mr Poroshenko’s legitimacy depends on the fight against Russia, and he wants to prevent Donbass from voting in the presidential elections in 2019.

The agreement that sparked the conflict
The conflict in Ukraine today stems from the Ukrainian President’s rejection of a single economic deal with the European Union regarding an Association Agreement. The EU sought more Eastern European economies to enter into their trade agreements, while Ukrainians yearned for further involvement with Western Europe’s more modern and productive economies.

During the negotiation stages in late 2013, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suddenly voiced doubts about signing the EU’s proposed agreement. For Ukrainians, the fact that their President tended to circumvent the topic was a clear signal that he was giving in to pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin. A few days later, President Yanukovych indeed rejected the proposal, accepting a new deal from Russia in the form of €12.7 billion in aid and other economic benefits.

Eventually the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement was signed on 27 June 2014 by the new President, Petro Poroshenko. The agreement will be fully implemented as of 1 September 2017. The entry into force of the agreement will enhance cooperation in areas such as foreign and security policy, justice, freedom and security (including migration), taxation, and public finance management.

*Photo: City centre of Kramatorsk, the government controlled provisional seat of Donetsk Oblast. 

Sources: Radio Free Europe, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Economist, UNIAN