Ukraine after the end of the cease-fire

The initially unilateral cease-fire declared by president Poroshenko in Ukraine has ended. Although Russia as the most important supporter of the so-called separatists announced her support for it, it was widely disregarded. Russia’s announcement did not remove doubts about her real intensions for support to the peace plan.  Separatists used the cease-fire to take over Ukrainian army bases and there are many reports of other armed incidents. In the less than clear situation in Ukraine and the ongoing information war, which further complicates understanding what is going on, one cannot be fully certain, that none of them have been instigated by forces supporting the government.The Ukrainian government has always had the undisputed right, as well as the duty to restore order in the country. Unlike president Poroshenko who was elected by the clear majority of all Ukrainians the armed separatist gangs have no mandate to speak on behalf of the Russian-speakers of the Donbas region. On the contrary it seems that their violent behaviour and intimidation tactics have reduced their already initially low support among the local population.This is not to deny that Russian-speaking Ukrainians do have legitimate concerns and expectations, which cannot be met merely by disarming the separatists. In all plans to solve the conflict, beginning with the February agreement ending the Maidan demonstrations, the accord reached in Geneva, the OSCE Road Map and Poroshenko’s peace plan, the central element has been a political solution reached through inclusive dialogue respecting the rights and powers of all minorities and regions and with a new constitution and new elections. Reforms are needed by all Ukrainians, who have never had the opportunity to live in a democracy, free of corruption and based on the rule-of-law.The direct and indirect support given to the armed separatists from Russia and the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and international law by the annexation of the Crimea, are to be condemned. Recognizing the mistakes and errors of judgment that Ukraine as well as the EU and other international actors have made is no justification for these. At the same time it has to be recognized that a stable and free Ukraine is ultimately also in Russia’s interest and that we should refrain from taking any action that would further complicate reaching agreement on this and implementing it. For this a renewal of the cease-fire and a firm commitment from everyone to respecting it is needed.