The EU foreign service announced today (18 February) that it is “ready to take appropriate action in case the fighting and other negative developments in violation of the Minsk agreements continue”, in a blunt reference to Russia’s alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Its statement also noted that “The actions by the Russia-backed separatists in Debaltseve are a clear violation of the ceasefire. The separatists must stop all military activities. Russia and the separatists have to immediately and fully implement the commitments agreed to in Minsk”.
Last week, Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia agreed ceasefire terms after protracted negotiations in Minsk which included a cessation of hostilities at midnight on Saturday and a withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact from Monday onward. While the fighting mostly stopped in Lugansk, Mariupol, and Donetsk, Russia-controlled irregular soldiers and Russian forces, often comprised of soldiers fighting ‘while on holiday’ continued to fire on Ukrainian soldiers in Debaltseve, a railway hub.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko proclaimed earlier today (18 February) that he ordered the withdrawal of his forces from the flashpoint town. The French envoy, Francois Delattre, said that “It is up to the parties, to the signatories of these agreements, including Russia, to actualize the commitments they have taken.” Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron warned Moscow and the pro-Russian separatist that the EU will have “to be very firm – it will have economic and financial consequences for many years to come if you do not desist.” While Russia has steadfastly denied that it is a party to the conflict, the EU foreign service, in a change of policy earlier this week, officially acknowledged that Russian forces are fighting inside Ukrainian territory and also providing heavy weapons to the paramilitaries.