A Christmas Truce for Eastern Ukraine
Ukraine and the U.S. ask Russia to make sure this attempt at peace holds.
In a move reminiscent of the first winter of World War I, there will be a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine beginning on Dec. 24 at midnight — that is, as Christmas Eve turns into Christmas.
The Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk announced on Wednesday that Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk agreed to the ceasefire, stating that “the members of the Trilateral contact group and representatives of the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, do underline necessity of securing peace and tranquillity before the upcoming holidays, confirm our adherence to fulfilling overwhelming, sustainable and continuing ceasefire regime starting from 12 a.m. December 24 Kyiv time.”
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that the United States considered the holiday truce a good step, but is still concerned about fighting in the east. He blamed “separatists and Russian forces” for the daily attacks on “Ukrainian positions.” Kirby asked Russia to pressure the separatists to end the violence, which has risen dramatically since mid-December.
This is hardly the first ceasefire brokered for eastern Ukraine. But previous attempts — truces negotiated in February 2015 and September of this year, for example — have been undermined by violence, with each side accusing the other of not holding up its end of the deal.
Nevertheless, there is hope that this is the ceasefire that holds. In a statement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, “I rely that these measures, which will be implemented on the eve of the New Year and Christmas festivities, will help make the ceasefire permanent.” He, too, then called on Russia to make sure the ceasefire survives.
Whether it will last until the next meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group — on Jan. 16 — is still to be seen. Perhaps the holidays will be reason enough to stop fighting — at least until the half of Ukraine that is Orthodox gets to celebrate its Christmas on Jan. 7.
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