Ukraine ceasefire said to be holding – but only just

Mrs Merkel confronts Poroshenko and Russian President Putin

‘Cool it!’ Mrs Merkel seems to tell both Poroshenko (centre) and Russian President Putin over their differences.

Poroshenko, wearing the uniform of the armed forces’ supreme commander, announced the order to stop firing in a midnight televised address, but said there was still alarm over Debaltseve. “I very much hope that the last chance to begin the long and difficult peaceful process for a political settlement will not be wasted,” he said, adding, however, that if Ukraine were slapped, it would not “turn the other cheek”.

The ceasefire, negotiated in all-night four-power talks on Thursday, foresees creation of a buffer zone and withdrawal of heavy weapons. More than 5,000 people have been killed in a conflict that has caused the worst crisis in Russia-West relations since the Cold War. Putin denies Moscow is involved in fighting for territory that he calls “New Russia” but Washington and its allies have imposed economic sanctions over Russia’s role in the conflict.

The United Nations was still negotiating a Russian-drafted resolution that would welcome the ceasefire agreement and call on all parties to implement it. “We’re not in a position to vote a text today,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters on Sunday. Malaysian U.N. Ambassador Hussein Haniff said he wanted the draft to reflect a resolution adopted in July, which demanded access to the eastern Ukraine site where a Malaysian passenger plane crashed with 298 people on board.

Maxim, a rebel fighter at a checkpoint on a road from Donetsk to government-held Dnipropetrovsk, said he did not expect the ceasefire to hold. “Truce? I doubt it. Maybe two to three days, and then they will start shooting again. This is all for show. The OSCE is driving around here, so of course they are being quiet.”

Wire reports

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