Despite a ceasefire being agreed upon between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists on Friday 5th September, attacks have persisted with both sides responsible for having violated the agreement.
Though accurate figures are inestimable, the Ukrainian government have claimed at least five servicemen have been killed during the ceasefire and three dozen injured. Meanwhile Donetsk, which plays host to a rebel stronghold, has been under continual fire since Friday, with one woman reportedly injured.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has lambasted Ukraine for the strikes upon Donetsk, whilst Ukrainian defence analyst, Dmytro Tymchuk, maintains that Russian ‘troops and terrorists are continuing their brazen violations of the conditions of the ceasefire, shooting at the positions of the Ukrainian forces, including with heavy weaponry’.
Despite the clear violations of the ceasefire, neither side appears to wish to ‘officially’ break it. Though Thomas Greminger, chair of the permanent council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has labelled the ceasefire ‘shaky’, there are some clear benefits to be seen from the product. The OSCE is a European security watchdog and has played an active part in ensuring the ceasefire was formulated and in attempting to uphold it.
Being part of the twelve-point plan mediated by the OSCE, the ceasefire calls for both sides to cease the use of weapons, permit monitoring by the OSCE, release hostages and unlawfully detained persons on both sides, pardon those involved in the conflict, and open discussions further on how to proceed.
As a result of ongoing negotiations, the latest information holds that 648 POWs have been released to the government, with the hope that a further 500 will be released. Additionally when taking all into perspective, the keenness of each side to broadly maintain the ceasefire shows promise for reducing the rate of casualties which has tarnished the country throughout the year. Thus far over 3000 are suggested to have been killed as a result of the conflict. Both sides are essentially worn out, and by being used as a point of tension between Russia on one side and countries including UK, USA and Germany on the other, there is international pressure to restore stability. The ceasefire, despite complete lack of adherence, may not be as ineffective as some critics believe with each side essentially overlooking the breaches to maintain it. Though neither side confesses to responsibility, the mere fact that at least one side has broken away without complete descent into the prior state of conflict is something that should be held onto so as to curb potential future destruction.
OSCE chairman, Didier Burkhalter, maintains that ‘a ceasefire alone is not enough’ and indicated that further action will be taken to mediate peace. The OSCE has noted the lack of complete adherence to the terms of the ceasefire and has resolved to make use of drones to monitor Ukraine. This follows the 221 observers which were sent by the OSCE to Ukraine previously.
Whilst no official statement has been given as to how each side intends to respond to the casualties since 5th September, each is keen to ensure the other releases their POWs. The rebels appear to have 1,200 prisoners, most of which have now been released, whilst the rebels claim that just over 300 of their own men remain captive by the government.