A ceasefire in Ukraine is supposedly underway. However there are many indications it won’t last long. Let’s take a look starting with a critical issue.
Kiev Denies Amnesty and Constitution Agreements
It seems highly unlikely that the separatists will honor the ceasefire given Kiev Denies Amnesty and Constitution Agreements. My translation follows.
Kiev is not going to honor two important points of the new Minsk new agreements: Amnesty and commitment to constitutional reform.
Speaking on Friday at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, said amnesty will not apply to the separatist leaders who are guilty of “crimes against humanity”. Foreign Minister also noted that Ukraine did not incur any obligation on making specific changes to the Constitution of the country.
The most difficult issue in resolving the situation in the Donbas continues to be the so-called debaltsevsky boiler in the Donetsk region, where, according to the separatists, several thousand Ukrainian military were surrounded. Kiev denies this information.
Clashes Intensify Ahead of Ceasefire
The Guardian reports Fears for Ukraine’s ceasefire as clashes with Russia-backed rebels intensify
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebel militias in the east of the country intensified on Saturday as fears grew for the durability of a ceasefire agreement that took effect at 12.01am on Sunday local time (10.01pm GMT on Saturday).
In an inauspicious omen for the prospects of any cessation of hostilities, rebels have said they will not consider any battles for the town to be a violation of the ceasefire.
Even before the peace plan was agreed, 50 Russian tanks, 40 missile systems and 40 armoured vehicles had crossed into Ukraine, Kiev claimed. The Ukrainians were moving up reinforcements on Saturday as well, in the hope that a ceasefire would allow them to reach Debaltseve, a national guard commander told the Observer.
[Hmmmm can I see some images of those tanks please?]
British equipment is now also reportedly in Ukraine after a private firm sold 20 decommissioned British army Saxon armoured vehicles to Kiev.
Kiev also seemed to be bracing itself for continued clashes. Poroshenko warned on Saturday that, if the ceasefire did not work, he would declare a state of martial law across the country.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the rebel leader in the city of Donetsk, was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying his fighters would not allow Ukrainian forces to escape Debaltseve. Separatists have said the Ukrainian troops there would be offered only the opportunity to surrender.
Although rebels have been able to virtually surround Debaltseve and pound it with rockets and artillery, the road connecting the city with Ukrainian forces in Artemivsk is not fully under either side’s control.
Regarding the Debaltseve Boiler I offer this translation from Colonel Cassad.
The junta’s attempts to break through the corridor to Debaltseve failed. Moreover, the WPC not only repeled the attacks of the enemy along the M-103, but they themselves went on the offensive on Debaltseve and there in the evening unfolded fierce battles with tanks and artillery. As expected, the remaining days before a possible truce, the parties will try to spend in the area Debaltseve “as productively as possible.” Tonight’s the night and all the next day seems to pass very hard and a lot of people will die.
That report is now a day old, but with the trapped Ukrainian forces running out of ammunition, the situation for those trapped is bleak.
The “truce” is now at hand. Translation of Colonel Cassad regarding the truce is even more difficult than usual. As best as I can tell, Ukraine has proclaimed victories just ahead of the truce. To which Cassad sarcastically replied “Experience shows that if Grishin writes about victories on Facebook, then with the troops of the junta there was something wrong.”.
DNR Says Ceasefire Does Not Apply to Debaltsevo
For icing on the “truce” cake Colonel Cassad reports DNR Says Ceasefire Does Not Apply to Debaltsevo. This time I have a translation from Jacob Dreizin.
Zakharchenko as well as DNR [separtist] defense ministry spokesman Basurin stated today that the ceasefire does not apply to the Debaltsevo cauldron.
The reasoning seems to be that the cauldron is south of the agreed-upon line of contact between the DNR/LNR and Ukrainian forces, along which the ceasefire applies.
Hence, if the encircled forces do not surrender, then they are violating the ceasefire (i.e. not being where they are supposed to be) and their liquidation would not be a violation of the Minsk agreement.
Another consideration is that the Ukrainians in the cauldron would not be able to withdraw their artillery a sufficient distance (for obvious reasons), as required by Minsk, and thus, they would be violating the ceasefire and subject to liquidation.
By the way, pro-DNR/LNR sources are claiming that the encircled Ukrainians are starting to run low on ammunition.
Real Ceasefire Reason
Jacob wondered if “President Poroshenko was unaware that there was a cauldron, with his army was keeping the truth from him, simply to support their own needed propaganda.“
I propose an alternative idea: Things were going so badly for Ukraine that Poroshenko felt he had no choice, especially with pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Regardless, the above commentary sets the tone. No matter how Kiev and Western media spins a breakage of the truce, Kiev never wanted to grant amnesty, nor institute constitutional reforms.
Unless and until Kiev is willing to agree to a federation with real autonomy for the separatist regions, I suggest no truce can last.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock