Ukraine ceasefire deal not likely to hold

For the second time in 5 months, a ceasefire has been declared in the Ukrainian civil war as the government in Kiev and separatist rebels agreed to withdraw their heavy weapons from the frontlines and establish a buffer zone between Russia and Ukraine.

The last ceasfire in September broke down almost before the ink was dry on the treaty. This one may last a little longer as both sides appear exhausted by the fighting.

What hasn't changed is Vladimir Putin's goal to establish a separate state in Eastern Ukraine that would be under the thumb of Moscow. His ceasefire gambit will allow the rebels to regroup and make ready for the next round of fighting, while helping to maintain the western illusion that there's a political solution to be had.

CNN:

Marathon peace talks aimed at ending the bloody crisis in eastern Ukraine concluded Thursday in a breakthrough: A ceasefire that's due to start Sunday and an agreement for both sides to pull back heavy weapons.

If the ceasefire holds -- which is far from certain -- it could bring to an end a 10-month conflict that has claimed more than 5,000 lives, many of them civilians, and plunged East-West relations to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Addressing reporters after the four-way overnight talks in Minsk, Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said all parties had agreed to the ceasefire starting February 15 and called for restraint in the interim.

"I call on both sides to end the bloodshed as soon as possible" and come to a real political solution to the conflict, he said.

Putin added that all sides have agreed to pull back heavy weapons.

Germany's Foreign Office confirmed on Twitter that an agreement had been reached in the talks between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

"After 17 hours the negotiations in Minsk are finished: Ceasefire on 15.02 at 0:00 and the withdrawal of heavy weapons. That is a reason for hope," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted.

Full details of the agreement have yet to be released.

A previous ceasefire deal agreed to in September, also in Minsk, broke down amid continued fighting.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced cautious optimism after Thursday's deal.

"We have not achieved everything, but at least there is a ceasefire. This also includes agreements on securing the eastern borders of Ukraine, elections and the exchange of prisoners," he said in a statement.

"It is a chance to move away from escalation and towards political momentum."

If there is a political solution to the crisis, it will come at the point of a gun. As long as Putin can maintain the fiction that he's not assisting the rebels, the separatists will have a limitless supply of weapons and the unacknowledged assistance of Russian armor and artillery. The rebels have made it clear they will not settle for a political deal with Kiev; they want their own country and the Ukraine army just isn't strong enough to beat down the rebellion by itself.

Washington won't send lethal aid to Ukraine now. Putin would take the opportunity to restart the war while blaming the administration for the violence. Despite the fact that the Ukrainian army desperately needs assistance, help will not be coming for their NATO allies who fear that supplying the Kiev government with better arms would be an escalation that would only help Putin in the end.

For the second time in 5 months, a ceasefire has been declared in the Ukrainian civil war as the government in Kiev and separatist rebels agreed to withdraw their heavy weapons from the frontlines and establish a buffer zone between Russia and Ukraine.

The last ceasfire in September broke down almost before the ink was dry on the treaty. This one may last a little longer as both sides appear exhausted by the fighting.

What hasn't changed is Vladimir Putin's goal to establish a separate state in Eastern Ukraine that would be under the thumb of Moscow. His ceasefire gambit will allow the rebels to regroup and make ready for the next round of fighting, while helping to maintain the western illusion that there's a political solution to be had.

CNN:

Marathon peace talks aimed at ending the bloody crisis in eastern Ukraine concluded Thursday in a breakthrough: A ceasefire that's due to start Sunday and an agreement for both sides to pull back heavy weapons.

If the ceasefire holds -- which is far from certain -- it could bring to an end a 10-month conflict that has claimed more than 5,000 lives, many of them civilians, and plunged East-West relations to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Addressing reporters after the four-way overnight talks in Minsk, Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said all parties had agreed to the ceasefire starting February 15 and called for restraint in the interim.

"I call on both sides to end the bloodshed as soon as possible" and come to a real political solution to the conflict, he said.

Putin added that all sides have agreed to pull back heavy weapons.

Germany's Foreign Office confirmed on Twitter that an agreement had been reached in the talks between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.

"After 17 hours the negotiations in Minsk are finished: Ceasefire on 15.02 at 0:00 and the withdrawal of heavy weapons. That is a reason for hope," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted.

Full details of the agreement have yet to be released.

A previous ceasefire deal agreed to in September, also in Minsk, broke down amid continued fighting.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced cautious optimism after Thursday's deal.

"We have not achieved everything, but at least there is a ceasefire. This also includes agreements on securing the eastern borders of Ukraine, elections and the exchange of prisoners," he said in a statement.

"It is a chance to move away from escalation and towards political momentum."

If there is a political solution to the crisis, it will come at the point of a gun. As long as Putin can maintain the fiction that he's not assisting the rebels, the separatists will have a limitless supply of weapons and the unacknowledged assistance of Russian armor and artillery. The rebels have made it clear they will not settle for a political deal with Kiev; they want their own country and the Ukraine army just isn't strong enough to beat down the rebellion by itself.

Washington won't send lethal aid to Ukraine now. Putin would take the opportunity to restart the war while blaming the administration for the violence. Despite the fact that the Ukrainian army desperately needs assistance, help will not be coming for their NATO allies who fear that supplying the Kiev government with better arms would be an escalation that would only help Putin in the end.