By James Boggs
The situation in the Ukraine remains as chaotic as ever, as a new peace deal between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists came into force midnight last Sunday.
The treaty, a joint effort between France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, has been evaluated by the Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as having been “observed in general.”
Sparked by an increasingly alarmed Russia, the conflict has thrown the eastern part of Ukraine, where it borders Russia, into chaos. Pro-Russian forces, backed by Russian arms, vehicles and soldiers, have seized much of the area.
The city of Debaltseve is in particular jeopardy due to it’s prime location in the Donetsk Oblast and its function as a major railway hub. It is for these reasons that Debaltseve is the only city the rebels have not ceased firing upon. Though it is true that, for the most part, the treaty has been followed by both sides, shelling from both sides has continued in and around the city of Debaltseve. Since for the past few weeks much of the fighting has been focused around this strategically important city, the continued fighting there nearly offsets the peace being enacted elsewhere and leaves the treaty ringing hollow.
However, the exact intensity of the fighting around Debaltseve is largely unknown, since separatist rebels refused to let international observers enter the region to confirm the fulfillment of the ceasefire. Elsewhere, thankfully, the observers declared complete success in the implementation of the treaty.
In addition to a ceasefire, the treaty, forged over the weekend in Minsk, Belarus, calls for a withdrawal of heavy weapons, mostly artillery and mobile rocket platforms, from the front lines, and then for the creation of a 30-85 mile-wide demilitarized zone. Yet the most critical part of the execution is the initial ceasefire, which, in light of continued fighting around Debaltseve, seems tenuous at best.
In order to excuse this violation of the treaty, the separatists maintain that Donetsk is actually part of their territory and that they are free to shell their own territory.
The question of why, if it is their territory, they have the need to shell it is answered by the obvious fact that the city is currently inhabited by Ukrainian forces.