Watching a Shaky Cease-Fire in Ukraine

Earlier this month, a cease-fire agreement was signed in Minsk, Belarus, after long talks between leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France. Ukrainian government troops and rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine agreed to cease hostilities by February 15 and withdraw heavy weapons at least 30 miles from the agreed-upon buffer zone stretching roughly from Luhansk to Mariupol. Heavy fighting ensued right before the deadline, and sporadic violence continues even now, more than a week later. Some Ukrainian forces claim they are unable to withdraw, as the Russian-backed rebels are still shelling their positions. Rebels captured the small town of Debaltseve, a strategically important rail hub, just as the cease-fire was set to begin. There is positive movement, however, as some prisoner exchanges have taken place and many weapons have been withdrawn. According to the terms of the Minsk agreement, both sides have until the end of the month to fully withdraw—then, if the truce holds, comes the lengthy task of negotiation and rebuilding the breakaway region, physically, politically, and socially.

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