Eastern Ukraine – the forgotten battleground

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine received significant attention when it started in 2014, but since then this attention has been redirected elsewhere. Security concerns, such as the Paris terrorist attacks and the rise of the Islamic State, have resulted in the Eastern Ukrainian conflict being forgotten by the media. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 7000 people, has displaced more than one million and has continued to affect Ukrainians today. While the fighting is not as bad as it once was, it is essential that this conflict receive more attention in order to encourage positive change.  There have been two ceasefires since the beginning of the conflict but, despite the current ceasefire, the fighting  continues and thus is resulting in the death of more civilians. With the deadline for a peace deal fast approaching, it seems that the ceasefire has been ineffective, which makes a peace deal seem unlikely.

In February 2015, Minsk II replaced the previous ceasefire plan. It is an extensive 12-point plan aimed at creating an environment where a peace deal could be negotiated. The core of Minsk II is an immediate ceasefire, to stop any future fighting, and to begin the process of reconstruction, with particular focus on economic reconstruction and humanitarian aid for the civilians affected by the conflict. Minsk II has similar elements to the original ceasefire from 2014 and, like the original agreement, it has faced problems. The most significant problem that has occurred is the continued fighting between the combatants, thus breaking the rules of the ceasefire. These instances of violence are not at the same level as they were when they first erupted but it has meant that civilians have continued to be affected by the conflict, with this fighting causing more widespread damage and unnecessary loss of life.

Due to the continuing violence, many commentators are skeptical that a peace agreement will be produced before the ceasefire plan expires. Minsk II involved several deadlines, aimed at producing a peace agreement, but some of these deadlines have passed without legitimate action towards meeting them. The best example of this is the removal of heavy weapons from the buffer zone, which was meant to occur before the 12th of November but it has not. These weapons still remain and are still being used. Minsk II expires on the 31st of December and is meant to be replaced with a formal peace agreement. However, at this point it is clear that the possibility of this happening is very slim.

In theory, Minsk II is an appropriate plan for a ceasefire but the parties involved in the conflict need to be more proactive in following it. In order for this conflict to be resolved, it is necessary that the ceasefire be maintained as it will ensure that an appropriate peace agreement is negotiated. It is crucial that this conflict receive more attention so that both parties be held accountable for following the ceasefire. Without this attention, the unnecessary loss of life will continue. For peace talks to move forward, the violence must end.

Lillian Wetherspoon