A Hollow Ukrainian Ceasefire

Nearly one-tenth of all reported deaths in the crisis have happened since Moscow and Kiev agreed to stop fighting.

On Tuesday, the United Nations reported that at least 331 people have died in eastern Ukraine since a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government in Kiev and the armed separatists was signed in early September. There are plenty of ways to look at this figure: Reuters went with the rate of 10 people per day. Placed alongside the 3,660 reported deaths in the conflict, 331 (ostensibly peacetime) deaths also constitute slightly less than one-tenth of the total number of casualties since fighting broke out in the region in mid-April.

But those conservative numbers—including nearly 9,000 wounded—hardly capture the extent to which the Ukrainian ceasefire is in tatters. As the United Nations report noted, "it appears that the majority of civilian victims were killed due to indiscriminate shelling in residential areas and the use of heavy weaponry." The shelling came from both sides despite another deal signed in mid-September, which called for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry.

“There is a total breakdown of law and order,” said Gianni Magazzeni, the United Nations human rights official who announced the release of the report in Geneva.

Over the past month, grim developments have included the shelling of schools and city buses, the gutting of villages, the fierce battles for control of Donetsk's Sergei Prokofiev Airport, and startling lists of locals who are believed to either be missing or held captive by pro-Russian rebels. An early October report estimated that nearly 400,000 Ukrainians are internally displaced, part of a seven-figure estimate for the total number of Ukrainians who have been displaced.

While the latest violence has largely been limited to the exchange of small-arms fire—a shift from this summer's large-scale military offensives, which drove up death tolls and ultimately forced the warring sides to negotiate—there's been little letup in fighting over the past month.

Meanwhile, the six-month anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea was marked with an admixture of triumph for Russian-speakers and apprehension among minorities like the Tatars, who have had their businesses raided and their assemblies limited. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch added "enforced disappearances" to the list of hostilities in Crimea.