Ceasefire in ukraine: calm on the eastern front

A ceasefire is in effect in eastern Ukraine for the new year. Observers fear that fighting will flare up again soon.

War equipment awaits repairs in Kiev. Photo: dpa

Since Wednesday, the weapons in eastern Ukraine have been silent, once again. Previously, the so-called Contact Group, which includes Ukraine, the OSCE and Russia, agreed on a ceasefire for New Year and Christmas. The ceasefire has been in effect since midnight Tuesday.

"This initiative is needed, first of all, by the people of the Donbass to be able to celebrate New Year and Christmas in peace," said the press secretary of the Ukrainian representative in the contact group, Darya Oliver. The meeting of the Contact Group on December 22 was the last one this year. Traditionally, the majority of the population in Ukraine does not celebrate Orthodox Christmas until January 7 and 8.

In a review of the mediators’ work, Darja Oliver highlighted the successes of the contact group meeting in Minsk. In 2015, the group managed to put an end to the great bloodshed with a ceasefire. Both sides had begun withdrawing heavy weapons, and reconstruction had already begun in many places in the Donbass.

Unfortunately, the desired results had not been achieved on the issue of the release of prisoners. Nevertheless, the spokeswoman of the Ukrainian mediator said, it is hoped that some Ukrainians who are still in captivity will be able to spend the holidays with their families.

Positions built up

Not everyone shares her optimism. The Ukrainian side has expanded its positions in the vicinity of Mariupol in many cases, they criticize in the "People’s Republics" of Donetsk and Lugansk, referring to a report by the OSCE Observer Mission.

Shortly before the new ceasefire came into force, Ukraine used heavy weapons against the "defenders of the Donbass," reports nahnews.org, an Internet portal close to the insurgents. Among them, it said, were weapons whose use violated the Minsk agreements. According to a spokesman for the "Lugansk People’s Republic," the expansion of sanctions by the United States also aggravates the situation. Thus, Vladislav Dejnega, the negotiator of the "Lugansk People’s Republic" at the peace talks in Minsk, is now also on the sanctions list.

Previously, the OSCE had spoken of multiple violations of the ceasefire. In particular, residents of the village of Zaitseve near Donetsk, which lies between positions of the Ukrainian armed forces and units of the "Donetsk People’s Republic," had reported to the OSCE several times of fighting in recent nights. At the same time, the Ukrainian side reports violations of the ceasefire by the insurgents.

The Ukrainian side is particularly concerned about the separatists’ capture of the village of Kominternovo, a suburb of Mariupol with a population of 400. With this territorial gain, it would also be easier to shell the port city of Mariupol. The abandonment of Kominternovo, according to the radical right-wing head of the Ukrainian volunteer battalion "Azov," Andrei Biletsky, was a serious tactical mistake by the Ukrainian armed forces. By capturing Kominternovo, Biletsky said, the separatists had improved their position. Now, he said, enemy artillery was stationed in this strategically important location.

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