Mediated by France and Germany, an agreement aimed at ending the Ukraine crisis was concluded between Russia, Ukraine, and Russian-backed separatists in the self-declared democratic people’s republics (DPRs) of Donetsk and Luhansk on Thursday, February 12, and took effect in the early hours of the following Sunday. While most observers agree the terms of the so-called Minsk II agreement have been largely observed and violence has died down, intense fighting continued for several days in some areas, especially around the strategic town of Debaltseve, where Ukrainian forces suffered a humiliating defeat.
There is some hope that the agreement can still gain traction on the ground—the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines has begun and a first prisoner exchange has taken place. In another round of talks on February 24, the foreign ministers of the signatory states restated their commitment to the provisions of the Minsk Agreement and called for a one-year extension of the OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. Thus, the agreement could indeed offer hope for an eventual breakthrough to the settlement of one of the worst crises in relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Yugoslav Wars 20 years ago.
However, the February agreement is not the first such deal struck in the course of the Ukrainian crisis. Almost a year ago, representatives of the Ukrainian parliamentary opposition at the time and then president Viktor Yanukovych signed an agreement on a way out of the crisis. This agreement survived for about three days, after which time the opposition issued Yanukovych with an arrest warrant and he became a fugitive in Russia. Read more