"Everything was agreed and signed in Minsk," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, moments before he pushed for new sanctions against Russia. What was agreed and signed in Minsk was a September ceasefire meant to end nearly five months of fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian rebels, during which 2,600 people died.
Since then, the fighting has raged on, intensifying at certain points beyond its pre-ceasefire zenith. Just one month after the ceasefire, a United Nations report placed the death toll at 3,700, including a large number of civilians killed by indiscriminate shelling from both sides. Deadly attacks on public transportation, enforced disappearances, and the increasing presence of Russian soldiers have become regular features in the landscape.
On Friday, nearly five months after the ceasefire, the United Nations issued a cautiously conservative estimate of 5,000 dead in less than a year of fighting. With enough rote recitation, death tolls simply become muzak in a story like this. But the past few days have placed the crisis on the brink of becoming an all-out war.
“In just nine days, between 13 and 21 January, at least 262 people were killed due to the hostilities," a spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said. "That is an average of at least 29 people killed per day. This has been the most deadly period since the declaration of a ceasefire on 5 September.”