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Wednesday, September 14

Sanity could be making a comeback in Ukraine

For an overview of this momentous possibility listen to Russia expert Dr Stephen F. Cohen's discussion on the John Batchelor Show last night. Podcast -- Ukraine discussion begins at the 19:45 minute mark. 

In brief (all quotes are from an Associated Press report filed September 13): 

First, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko announced on September 12 that:
... he expects the parliament to vote soon on constitutional amendments granting more autonomy to Ukrainian provinces, including the rebellious eastern regions [Donetsk and Lugansk].
"Decentralization is a policy that has no alternative,” Poroshenko tweeted Tuesday. “I expect the Verkhovna Rada [Ukranian parliament] to support the constitutional amendments regarding decentralization.”
This vote, if it goes through, would be fulfilling one of the key terms of the Minsk II agreement, which just three days ago was considered by all parties to be deader than a doornail.

Not to be outdone in the sanity department, a few hours after Poroshenko's announcement, the two separatist leaders in Eastern Ukraine announced an unprecedented unilateral ceasefire starting at midnight September 15, Ukraine time.  

As to what prompted Poroshenko's sudden bout of sanity -- one speculation tossed around by John and Steve is that he decided he was more afraid of his government losing Western military and financial aid than he was of being strung up from the nearest lamp post by the country's ultra-right militias if he pushed for a vote that would make Donetsk and Lugansk an autonomous region. 

And yes, the militias are so powerful that they could make good on their threat. So just to make certain he keeps up his resolve:
On Wednesday [today], Poroshenko is set to meet with top diplomats from France and Germany, and also hold separate talks with the foreign ministers of Britain and Poland in what appears to be part of a diplomatic blitz to discuss the conflict settlement.
Before traveling to Kiev, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that after talking with Ukraine and Russia on Monday he believes it is possible “to agree now, and without preconditions, on a durable cease-fire.”
He added that he and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, “will not let up in reminding the parties to the conflict of their responsibility for a political solution in eastern Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk agreements, in Kiev and in Moscow.”
“Our proposals are on the table, for making the cease-fire permanent and for the political process,” Steinmeier said, adding that he will also be speaking to Ukrainian lawmakers to discuss what can be done to get the Minsk process moving. “There needs to be readiness to compromise on all sides, and there needs to be the will to translate what is agreed into action.”
Darka Olifer, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian envoy at the talks with the separatists, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the representatives at the talks, conducted via a video link on Tuesday, supported the idea of a cease-fire.
As to what stands in opposition to these hopeful events -- the same dark forces that precipitated the disaster in Ukraine in the first place, which unleashed even darker forces including said ultra-right militias, and started the New Cold War or escalated it, depending on how you want to read Russia-U.S. relations during the past decade.  

Listen to the discussion between Steve and John for details.

For more on the separatists' announcement read the entire AP report, filed from Moscow by Nataliya Vasilyeva, and these two reports from the Russian news agency TASS:

Kiev says ready to maintain ceasefire in Donbass on continuing basis — official
September 13, 2016 - 20:02

The Ukrainian side is ready to maintain the ceasefire regime in Donbass on a continuing basis, a Kiev’s representative to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) said on Tuesday.

"The situation along the line of engagement remains tense but it is under control. The Ukrainian side of the JCCC says that Ukraine is fulfilling its liabilities concerning ceasefire regime maintenance along the entire line of engagement and is ready to maintain the regime of comprehensive cessation of hostilities in Donbass on a continuing basis," the press center of Kiev’s force operation said.


Members of the Contact Group on the settlement in eastern Ukraine agreed at an August 26 meeting in Minsk on a continuous ceasefire on the line of contact in Donbass as of September 1, the ninth one since the autumn 2014 agreement. However, the parties to the conflict continue to accuse each other of violating the truce.

[END REPORT]

Donbass militia leaders forbid their military to open fire in response to provocations
September 13, 16:56 UTC+3
TASS

LUGANSK/DONETSK, September 13. /TASS/. Heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky have prohibited their military units to open fire in response to provocations from Kiev-controlled forces.

"I have given the appropriate instructions, to establish a ceasefire as of midnight on September 15, 2016," Plotnitsky said in a statement posted on the website of the Luganskinformtsentr news agency. "All People’s Militia units of the Lugansk People’s Republic are strictly forbidden to open fire in response to artillery bombardments and provocations from the Ukrainian army and National Guard.

For his part, the DPR head said he issued similar decrees. "We fully comply with the Minsk agreements," he told the Rossiya 24 TV channel. "We see this as a goodwill gesture rather than weakness."

The heads of the two republics expressed the hope that this step will be an example for the Ukrainian leadership. "We call on OSCE observers to conduct real and impartial monitoring of compliance with the cessation of hostilities," the statement said.

Members of the Contact Group on the settlement in eastern Ukraine agreed at an August 26 meeting in Minsk on a continuous ceasefire on the line of contact in Donbass as of September 1, the ninth one since the autumn 2014 agreement. However, the parties to the conflict continue to accuse each other of violating the truce.

[END REPORT]

Note


Moscow has called on Kiev to properly respond to the initiative of Donetsk and Lugansk on a unilateral ceasefire as of midnight on September 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Russia sees the decision by Donbass “as an important concrete step aimed at consolidating the ceasefire declared by the parties… stabilization of the situation in the conflict zone and, ultimately, a peaceful settlement in southeastern Ukraine” in accordance with the Minsk agreements, TASS said, citing the statement. “Taking into account the intention to work towards consolidating the ceasefire confirmed by Ukraine’s representatives during a video conference on September 13, we are calling on Kiev to properly respond to the initiative… so that the ceasefire on the line of contact becomes stable and long-term, paving the way to peace and stability in the region,” the ministry said.

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