A “comprehensive ceasefire” in Eastern Ukraine that was agreed to last week in Minsk officially started on Monday (Reuters). Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin discussed the ceasefire during a phone conversation a few hours before it was due to start (Reuters).
Reports of the ceasefire being violated by the Russia-backed separatist groups immediately appeared in the media, while the OSCE monitoring mission reported 111 violations on the ceasefire’s first day.
The ceasefire game is one that is exceedingly easy to lose. So it’s better to take things in context and to note that the 111 violations reported on Monday by the OSCE represent a substantial decrease from the more than 800 average daily violations witnessed by the organization in 2019. The OSCE also reported just ten explosions along the frontline on July 28, while Ukraine’s military reported one instance of shelling from the separatist side the next day (Ukrainska Pravda).
The ceasefire is then more or less holding, for now. Whether it’ll survive the summer or even just another week, is another question.
Another significant development in the Donbass peace negotiation is the report by Ukrainian outlet Strana that Dmitry Kozak, Moscow’s chief negotiator on Ukraine, sent a heated letter to Angela Merkel’s foreign policy advisor in which he criticized the work of Normandy format advisors as “ineffective” and “pointless.” Kozak gives the example of the current ceasefire, which he says was negotiated entirely without France’s and Germany’s input.
In the letter, Kozak advocates transferring the work currently done by advisors (which include, for Ukraine, the head of the president’s office Andriy Yermak) to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Otherwise, he writes, “this experiment can continue, but without Russia.” A source confirmed to the Interfax agency the letter’s authenticity, but denied Russia was planning to withdraw from the Normandy format.