In the aftermath of the February armistice signed at Minsk by Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President François Hollande, efforts are being made to restore a relative stability in the East of Ukraine. Both parts agreed at Minsk to withdraw heavy armament by the beginning of March. Despite the perpetuation of violent incidents, most of the rockets and heavy artillery systems have been pulled back by pro-Russian fighters, according to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Three days ago, Poroshenko had accused the rebels in Eastern Ukraine of hesitancy to take back the heavy war equipment in the region, in compliance to ceasefire regulations, but now he admitted that the “lion’s share” of artillery and rocket systems has been withdrawn. This is a significant turn in the history of local conflicts, whose intensity peaked in the past 12 months, since Putin’s annexation of Crimea on the 18th of March, 2014. The violence that erupted in April, 2014, in the eastern regions of Ukraine (around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk), has killed around 6,000 people so far, while one million persons have abandoned their homes to flee that territory. 1,549 Ukrainian soldiers have died since the beginning of the rebellion, 64 of which were killed after the February 15 ceasefire. In this context, Poroshenko is still sceptical, despite witnessing the weapon withdrawal: “There is a ceasefire or there isn’t – it depends on how you look at it.” – the Ukrainian president said.
The goal of the truce-signers managing the conflict, according to the document, is to create a buffer-zone between the territories controlled by Ukrainian soldiers and by pro-Russian rebels, respectively. This zone is supposed to measure at least 50 km (30 miles) for artillery exceeding 100mm calibre, 70 km for systems including several rockets and 140 km for very heavy rockets and missiles. On Saturday, tanks with self-propelled guns were still parked in a hangar in Snizhne, about 90 km away from Donetsk, according to BBC news. One of BBC’s field reporters warned that the war seems far from its final throws, although we are witnessing a period of relative calm.
image source: BBC news