Tuesday

13th Apr 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

News in Brief

  1. US officials call for J&J vaccine pause over blood clots
  2. Putin refuses to talk about military build-up, Ukraine says
  3. EU bank to help Greece manage corona-recovery funds
  4. Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries to EU begin
  5. EU sanctions commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard
  6. UK opens investigation into ex-PM Cameron lobbying
  7. 'Significant differences' in EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland
  8. Bulgarian PM reveals price rise in new EU-BioNTech deal

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime
  2. China responds to 'low-efficacy' vaccine fears
  3. Merkel party chiefs support Laschet's chancellor bid
  4. EU refuses to bail out Montenegro's China loan
  5. Industry lobby to 'co-decide' on nearly €10bn EU public money
  6. Why Ursula von der Leyen won't go
  7. Incorporating gender in trade policy to benefit all
  8. Does Italian regionalism actually work?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us