There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the new Ukrainian ceasefire that was signed in Minsk, Belarus, on Thursday morning after nearly 17 hours of negotiations. The first is the fact that there was already a ceasefire signed in Minsk, Belarus, back in September, which failed to end the violence between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Here's what things looked like then:
And here's what they look like now:
Earlier this month, the violence had intensified to the point that the White House was openly talking about arming Ukraine for the first time, echoing previously resisted pleas from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. (A Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday predicted that arming Ukraine could take months.)
The new ceasefire, which was brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, will go into effect at midnight on Saturday. It calls for the withdrawal of heavy artillery from eastern Ukraine and the establishment of a demarcation line between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.
However, Merkel glumly characterized the agreement as only providing a "glimmer of hope" for ending the 10-month crisis, during which more than 5,000 people have died. Tellingly, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin was negotiating in Minsk, the Ukrainian military said that 50 tanks and 40 missile systems were spotted crossing into Ukraine from Russia overnight.