Ukraine Ceasefire: Here's What Just Happened in Minsk

There are potential pitfalls
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 12, 2015 4:17 AM CST
Updated Feb 12, 2015 7:56 AM CST
Putin: Ukraine Peace Deal Reached
A wounded Russian-backed separatist is helped into a hospital in Stakhanov, near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine, last week.   (AP Photo/Maximilian Clarke)

Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks with the leaders of Ukraine, France, and Germany by announcing a new ceasefire deal today, but "potential pitfalls" abound, as per the AP. What you need to know:

  • The timeline: Putin told reporters that the ceasefire will be effective starting midnight Sunday. (Another time-related number: Media reports vary, but frame the deal as the result of between 15 and 17 hours of unending talks; one report says a reporter had to be treated for exhaustion. How Putin put it: "It was not the best night in my life, but the morning, I think, is good.")

  • What happens then: As the AP puts it somewhat poetically: "Guns will fall silent, heavy weapons will pull back from the front, and Ukraine will trade a broad autonomy for the east to get back control of its Russian border by the end of this year."
  • About that autonomy: Ukraine has agreed to move forward on constitutional reforms that will grant more autonomy to areas the rebels hold, explains the Washington Post.
  • About those potential pitfalls: Here's one: Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko haven't come to an agreement on Debaltseve, a government-held town that the rebels have been after (it's a significant transport hub between the two main cities under their thumb in the east). Putin says the rebels consider the Ukrainian forces surrounded and expect them to surrender; Ukraine disagrees.
  • One more thing you should know: This from NPR's Corey Flintoff: "The long-term issues are whether Ukraine will officially recognize the areas where separatists have declared independence, and give those regions power in the central government."
  • Deja vu all over again? In September, a ceasefire was agreed to in Minsk (where today's deal was also agreed upon). But it never came to pass, and Ukraine claims that even as the talks were under way, Russia directed 50 tanks and more heavy weapons over the border.
  • Who signed the deal? Not Putin or Poroshenko; "lower-level" government reps, two rebel honchos, and a rep from a European ceasefire monitoring agency. The possible significance, per the Post, of the leaders not signing. "That suggested they were not willing to commit fully that the deal would be successful."
  • The White House's next move: The administration is going to watch and see if the ceasefire takes hold before deciding on whether to send "lethal aid."
(More ceasefire stories.)

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