Tuesday

18th Sep 2018

EU-brokered Ukraine truce 'holding', but at risk

  • EU leaders last week warned that if Russia violates the Minsk pact they will impose further economic sanctions. (Photo: Sasha Maksymenko)

International monitors say the EU-brokered ceasefire in Ukraine is largely “holding”, but fighting in the town of Debaltseve risks undoing the truce.

Ertugrul Apakan, the head of a special monitoring mission (SMM) operated by the OSCE, a European multilateral body, told press in Kiev on Sunday (15 February): “The ceasefire has been holding in the first 12 hours, with some exceptions, notably in Debaltseve, Raihorodka, and Lugansk”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said there are “numerous unconfirmed allegations regarding ceasefire violations”.

But he added: “Based on what it could hear overnight and what it could observe during the daylight, the SMM notes the ceasefire was overall respected over the first 12 hours of its implementation”.

He said the main exception was Debaltseve, where artillery fire “started” at 10am local time.

He noted that an OSCE patrol tried to enter the town, a strategic railway hub, but was “refused access” by Russia-controlled fighters.

He added that Mariupol, a strategic port in east Ukraine, is quiet. He said Donetsk witnessed one mortar round, three rocket attacks, and some small arms fire between midnight and 1am. His staff heard “outgoing” artillery rounds from Russia-occupied Lugansk at 1.45am. They also heard artillery fire in Raihorodka at 10.35am.

Shortly before midnight on Saturday, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko ordered his troops to stop hostilities in line with a deal brokered by the French and German leaders with Russia in Minsk last week.

Poroshenko denied reports that thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are trapped in Debaltseve, calling the claims a “sick hallucination”.

But he said the town is a potential “springboard” for future attacks on Ukraine, adding: “the tense situation … poses a great threat to the ceasefire regime”.

For his part, Aleksandr Zakharchenko - the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic - said the Minsk deal doesn’t apply to Debaltseve because the town is no longer part of Ukrainian territory.

He said his fighters have encircled 8,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the town, adding: “We will block all attempts to break out”.

Russia, which claims it is not involved in the conflict, has not issued a statement on the situation.

But it said it delivered another 900 tonnes of what it called “humanitarian cargo” to Donetsk.

The convoy is the latest in a line of supply trucks which go back and forth across the Russia-Ukraine border with no Ukrainian or international supervision.

EU leaders at a summit last Thursday gave “cautious” approval to the Minsk ceasefire plan.

But they warned that if Russia violates the pact they will impose further economic sanctions.

One senior EU source said: “We are extremely sceptical that the Minsk agreement will end the conflict”.

A second EU source noted that Russia is likely to seize Debaltseve and Mariupol before it really freezes the fighting.

The contact noted that Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Minsk told his French and German counterparts his forces need “at least” 10 days to capture the two cities.

He tried to delay the ceasefire deadline until they fell, but later agreed to the 15 February deadline on paper.

EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa

Earlier this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union announced a new relationship with Africa. On Friday, his subordinates outlined the vision, promising jobs and growth by leveraging public funds for investments.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us