Opinion: We should be skeptical after new Minsk ceasefire deal

Weißrussland Minsk Ukraine Konferenz Verhandlungsraum

Much remains unclear even after marathon talks at the Ukraine summit in Minsk with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the presidents of Ukraine, Russia and France.

After lengthy negotiations in Minsk, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a ceasefire deal. But DW's Ingo Mannteufel says there is reason to be skeptical of the agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to speak to the press, telling reporters that a ceasefire for eastern Ukraine had been agreed to take effect as of February 15. Merkel and French President Francis Hollande confirmed the news shortly after.

No more than Minsk I?

The end of fighting and killing in eastern Ukraine would no doubt be a positive result for the talks, but there is reason to be skeptical, given the lack of details on the agreement. It seems that this new deal - dubbed Minsk II - doesn't go much further than Minsk I, which was agreed upon in September 2014. It, too, promised a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. But the ceasefire was never really observed.

In the meantime, military offensives by the pro-Russian forces have led to territorial gains on all fronts, with the fighting currently concentrated on the rail hub Debaltseve that according to reports, has been surrounded by the separatists but that Ukrainian forces, understandably, are not willing to give up without a fight.

As we know very little about the latest Minsk deal and given the current situation on the ground, there is considerable skepticism regarding whether the ceasefire will be observed this time round.

A ceasefire agreement can only be successful if the demilitarized zone between the two warring sides is being monitored by independent forces. If not, it's highly likely that the fighting will continue.

From Minsk II to Brussels

Holland and Merkel are expected to share their impressions of the all-night talks with Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko and Putin with their European counterparts at the EU summit in Brussels.

If it turns out that skepticism of Minsk II is justified - that the agreement isn't enough to stop the bloodshed - then despite the lengthy diplomatic negotiations, the questions of additional sanctions against Russia, and whether weapons should be delivered to Ukraine will be back up for discussion.

By DW

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