Written by Naja Bentzen and Evarts Anosovs
On 12 February, after more than 16 hours of negotiations in Minsk, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine also signed the deal, which includes a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, to begin on 15 February, followed by the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
In a joint declaration, Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko stated their commitment to respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The document states that regular meetings will be held to ensure the fulfilment of the Minsk agreements.
The tenor of most official international reactions was cautiously optimistic. International leaders said the deal gave ‘hope’, but at the same time emphasised that the agreement must now be implemented on the ground.
Intense fighting continued during the talks, with the strategic transit hub of Debaltseve still contested. Moscow denies Ukraine’s accusations that Russia is supplying troops and weapons to separatists fighting for the territory which Putin calls ‘New Russia’.
The on-going crisis in Ukraine erupted after former President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement (AA) with the EU in November 2013 and sought closer ties to Russia. Following radical protests from pro-Western groups, Yanukovych stepped down and fled to Russia. Moscow responded by annexing the Crimea in March 2014, sparking wide-ranging EU sanctions.
- Who wants to arm Ukraine?, Briefing, 11 February 2015
- Ukraine: political parties and the EU, At a glance, 13 January 2015
- EU reaction to Russia-Ukraine conflict, EP Answer, 5 February 2015