Cease fire in Ukraine? Maybe not.

The office of Ukraineian President Petro Poroshenko announced that he had accepted a Russian framework for a cease fire between separatist rebels and government forces.

But Moscow is denying any agreement is in place, and pointed out that they can not negotiate on behalf of the rebels.


Putin's spokesman said the leaders agreed on steps towards peace but not a ceasefire in the conflict, which has killed more than 2,600 people since April and provoked the worst crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

"Putin and Poroshenko really discussed the steps that would contribute to a ceasefire between the militia and the Ukrainian forces. Russia cannot physically agree to a ceasefire because it is not a party to the conflict," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

That position is disputed by Kiev and Western governments, which say Russian troops are fighting alongside the pro-Moscow separatists.

Despite the confusion, the statements appeared to indicate a degree of progress that could influence European Union leaders as they consider introducing new sanctions against Russia as early as Friday.

In a contradictory signal, Moscow simultaneously announced plans for huge military exercises this month by the strategic rocket forces responsible for its long-range nuclear weapons. It said the maneuvers in south-central Russia would involve 4,000 troops and extensive use of air power.

The timing was clearly calculated to throw down a challenge to NATO and the United States, hours before President Barack Obama was due to deliver a speech on the crisis in Russia's neighbor Estonia.

Obama was expected to affirm the commitment of the United States and NATO to defend its members in Eastern Europe in the face of what they see as Cold War-style Russian aggression.

Russia denies any military presence in Ukraine, despite what Western governments have called overwhelming evidence that it has sent in troops and tanks to rescue the separatists from defeat and enable them to turn the tide of the conflict.

“You want to talk provocative? Let's talk about a few thousand Russian troops inside eastern Ukraine, continuing to support separatists, with heavy weapon systems, and more than 10,000 troops arrayed along the southeast border with Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said on Tuesday.

Now that they have the upper hand in the conflict - thanks to the Russian invasion - it is doubtful the rebels will be in the mood for a cease fire. Neither is Kiev likely to agrree to the political conditions the rebels are demanding - a separate state in southeastern Ukraine. A humanitarian cease fire is possible, but how long can that last with Russian troops on Ukranian soil?

I don't know how you can claim "progress" when the country is no closer to a cease fire than it was yesterday. You can agree to all the "frameworks" you want but when neither side is willing, it's impossible to implement them.


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