Temporary cease-fire Ukraine, however there is “a plan B”

On 23 June pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine stated they have agreed “to observe a temporary cease-fire until 27 June”, three days after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the weeklong truce. This agreement will end ten weeks of fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces.

The cease-fire
On 20 June Poroshenko declared an unilateral weeklong truce which the separatists rejected. In the night before, heavy fighting broke out. The rebels did not agreed immediately and said they will not disarm until “Ukrainian government troops have left the east.”

Aleksandr Borodai, “the self-styled prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic”, was in favour of the cease-fire three days later, after peace talks with representatives from Moscow, Kyiv and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma chaired the talks. According to Borodai, people in “the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic” agreed as well. Borodai further argued that separatists officials will join more talks, aimed at resolving Ukraine’s crisis.

In addition to the cease-fire Poroshenko announced a fifteen point peace plan, which involves “decentralising power, holding early elections, and creating a ten kilometre buffer zone on the Ukrainian-Russian border.” Next to this Poroshenko made clear the governments forces “have a plan B” if the separatists uses the cease-fire to regroup their forces, instead of disarming them.

The current situation
A few hours after the separatists leaders agreed with the cease-fire, they have been accused by the Ukrainian government forces of firing on Ukrainian military checkpoints in several parts of the east during the night.

It is not clear what will happen next. According to Reuters, it seems likely that rebels “may use the break in hostilities to press demands for federalization of Ukraine.” The government does not want this because it could lead to “the country breaking up.”

According to David Stern, a BBC analyst, the cease-fire is a “significant development” although it is a first step. However, there are some potential hazards that could derail the peace process. First, European, Ukrainian and American officials say Russia is “still allowing fighters and arms to cross its border with Ukraine.” Second, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given a conditional approval to Poroshenko’s peace plan, but stresses the importance of negotiating directly with the rebels. But Poroshenko argued “he will not talk to terrorists.”

International reactions
US President Barack Obama urged Putin to support peace in Ukraine. If he does not do this, there will be further “costs” for Russia. Putin sees the importance of direct talks between Ukrainian officials and the pro-Russian separatists. According to him, reconciliation in the country depends upon “a dialogue among all the warring factions in order to find solutions that are acceptable to everyone, particularly people in south-eastern Ukraine.”

The European Union foreign ministers repeated their treat: if Russia fails to support Poroshenko’s peace plan, they will wider sanctions. Till this moment sanctions have been visa bans and frozen assets for officials. The US however, is pressing for more action. On 23 June the EU foreign ministers agreed to ban imports from Crimea as well, to show that “Brussels would never recognise Russia’s ‘illegal’ annexation of Ukraine territory in March.”

On 24 June the Kremlin announced that Putin “asked Russia's upper house to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there.” The step, according to Poroshenko “the first practical step”, seems to be welcomed by the West as a sign that Russia is willing to help find a settlement in the conflict.

On 27 June an EU summit will be held in which European leaders could announce further sanctions against Russia if they “deem Moscow’s response to the peace plan to be inadequate.”

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty I, BBC, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty II, Reuters I, Reuters II, EUbusiness
Picture: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

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