On the night of July 1st the ceasefire between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian state was put to an end by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. In his address to the nation, he declared that Kiev "will attack and liberate [its] land. Not renewing the ceasefire is [its] response to terrorists, rebels, looters." This statement followed the multiplication of aggressive actions by pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern part of the country. The ceasefire had been effective for ten days, without a clear diminution in the conflict’s intensity and renewed breaches of the truce. Ukrainian Foreign Minister stated on Monday that the ceasefire had led to 27 Ukrainian servicemen being killed and 69 wounded during more than 100 violations of the ceasefire by rebels.
An answer to national and international pressures
The Ukrainian President’s announcement takes place while diverging forces have been trying to influence the process : on one side, the Ukrainian public opinion has largely been calling for a resumption of military activities against separatists to prevent further backup from Moscow. Poroshenko, in power since only 3 weeks, could logically fear a backlash at home due to the “criminal acts of militants” and military losses during the ceasefire. On the other side, European leaders –ahead of whom German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande - as well as Russia had been pushing towards a renewal of the ceasefire. Russian President Vladimir Putin has quickly reacted to Poroshenko’s decision by giving him the entire responsibility for potential attempts to peace and reaffirming Moscow’s position in favour of the 3 million ethnic Russians living in the eastern part of Ukraine.
As for non-European reactions, the US State Department backed Kiev’s move underlining that : “It takes two to keep a ceasefire” and “he (Poroshenko) has a right to defend his country”.
Towards an escalation of the conflict?
While both Ukraine and Russia declare their ultimate goal remains peace, there is great belief that the end of the ceasefire will lead to an escalation of violence. Kiev blames Moscow for arming the Eastern regions’ separatists, who have proclaimed themselves as independent. President Poroshenko underlined that “the defence of Ukraine's territorial integrity, of the security and lives of peaceful citizens, demands not just defensive but offensive action against the terrorist militants."
Offensive actions have resumed in Donetsk and Lugansk regions after Poroshenko’s speech, when air and artillery strikes led by the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), touched separatist bases. The major aim is controlling the border and preventing the entrance of backups from Russia within the Ukrainian national territory. In reality, attacks had never really stopped. Each part has been blaming the other for firing rockets and engaging in firefights. On Tuesday, a cameraman of Russian television channel REN-TV was killed by Ukrainian forces near the border after a government military transport carrying 49 people was shot down by pro-Russian forces.
The European Union question… again
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the country has been split up between pro-EU and pro-Russian inclinations. Separatism had indeed interrupted when former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich turned the EU free-trade deal down, provoking massive pro-EU demonstrations in Kiev. Going against his predecessor, and Moscow’s threats, Petro Poroshenko agreed on Friday 27th June on the same Association Agreement with the EU that his predecessor had refused. Vladimir Putin thoroughly condemned European Union leaders for repeatedly “using Ukraine as a bargaining chip in geopolitical games”. In parallel, the EU is likely to intensify its sanctions against Moscow: so far, the ruble has been tumbling, and threats of expanding asset freezing and travel bans are multiplying. The US Secretary of Treasury predicts a recession of Russia’s economy in case of additional sanctions, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that the country’s economy has already reached a “standstill”.
The outcome of Ukraine’s end to the ceasefire is thus uncertain. While the ceasefire did not lead to a significant reduction in the conflict’s intensity, it remains to be seen what noteworthy consequences its adjournment will have. Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine should meet this afternoon in Berlin in order to clarify the situation.
Author : Laura Gounon