13:32 Sep. 16, 2016
Ukrainian political expert Oleh Belokolos on the so-called ceasefire, current visit of western diplomats and the only way to stop Russian provocations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions
While we register a significant drop in the numbers of cease-fire violations since the beginning of September, the sporadic use of deadly force emerges regularly along different sections of the contact line, particularly near Avdiyivka, Mar'yinka and Shyrokyne.
Among the most disturbing cases are the attack on the Ukrainian positions near the village of Troitske on September 4 and the militants' use of 120 mm mortars near Shyrokyne on September 5. Since the beginning of September, at least one Ukrainian soldier has been killed and 13 have been wounded. On September 6, a resident of Avdiyivka suffered a heavy gun-shot wound followed by the two civilians wounded on September 7. Just as before, it remains all too clear that the prospect of real de-escalation depends only on Russia's willingness to renounce violence.
On Thursday, Germany's minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and France's minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Marc Ayrault, visited eastern Ukraine just hours after the new ceasefire had been announced. But just as the two foreign ministers went to see a bombed bridge in the town of Sloviansk, the reports of new violations became known. So, clearly, the situation in Donbass remains fragile and quite unpredictable.
This is not surprising as Putin's plans for Ukraine haven't changed: to weaken and disintegrate our country, block our Euro-integration and undermine our close cooperation with NATO.
Therefore, the Western backing remains absolutely critical for Ukraine. We need political support, investments and financial aid, as well as enhanced military assistance, including lethal weapons. The international sanctions against Russia should stay until Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored and fully guaranteed. Our Western friends must also be ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions require so.
We would also like to emphasize that Ukrainians categorically reject any pressure aimed at forcing Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreements unilaterally and thus, satisfy Russia at Ukraine's expense.
Overall, the international community, mass media and the general public should realize that making Putin pay a heavy price for his occupation of Crimea and aggression against Ukraine seriously decreases the likelihood of Russia's further provocations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.