Despite both warring factions agreeing to uphold the terms of the Minsk Agreement, which came into effect last Sunday, continued violence has seen Ukrainian government forces withdraw, from the contested town of Debaltseve. While last week's agreement promised a ceasefire, it provided no solution to the outcome of Debaltseve, which is now under separatist control.
From the moment the agreement was signed in Belarus, the fate of the town had all but been sealed. After last Sunday's negotiations, Russian president, Vladimir Putin insisted that "rebel forces" had undertaken a "defensive encirclement operation" around the town, thus surrounding government forces, as reported in The Independent. Ukrainian soldiers withdrawing from Debaltseve confirmed this, telling journalists from The Independent that the town had effectively been encircled for 10 days.
With government forces pulling back to the city of Artemivsk, some 50 km from the now pro-Russian separatist held Debaltseve, many international observers will be pondering whether the Minsk Agreement can empower a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
Despite the Ukrainian view on the matter, the separatists reiterated that Debaltseve was outside of the ceasefire agreement.
Countering the rebels claim, a report published by Reuters cited Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, saying that the rebels seizure of the town "had been contrary to the ceasefire agreement", that Russia, Germany and France had agreed to, last Sunday.
International Recognition of the Agreement
With the United Nations unanimously approving a Russian-drafted resolution to enforce the Minsk Agreement, pressure is being mounted against Russia to prove its commitment to the agreement. The US Ambassador, Samantha Power welcomed the resolution, but urged that Russia had to show its commitment to enforcing peace in Eastern Ukraine. "Russia signs agreements then does everything within its power to undermine them" she said, as reported by the BBC. Powers added: "Russia champions the sovereignty of nations and then acts as if a neighbor's borders do not exist". Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, responded by calling her comments "offensive" and argued that Russia has "actively called for peaceful settlement through inclusive, transparent dialogue between all sides".