The peace deal for eastern Ukraine reached on Thursday sets clear deadlines for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, but resolution of the main political and economic issues behind the conflict was made conditional on a series of difficult steps and put off until the end of the year.
The deal made by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine builds on a cease-fire agreement that was reached in September and violated almost immediately.
Here is a look at what they did and did not agree upon, and who won and lost in the process:
Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces are to begin an “immediate and comprehensive” cease-fire by the start of Sunday (2200GMT, 5 p.m. EST on Saturday).
HEAVY WEAPONS WITHDRAWAL
Both sides are to pull heavy weapons back from the frontline from 25 kilometers (15 miles) to 70 kilometers (42 miles) depending on their caliber, creating a much wider buffer zone than specified under the September agreement. This should help the separatists secure their hold on Donetsk, the main city under their control, which is now within range of government artillery.
The withdrawals, which are to begin Monday and be completed within two weeks, are to be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. There is no provision for outside peacekeepers, something Ukraine had opposed, fearing it would open the door for troops loyal to Moscow.
All foreign fighters, “mercenaries” and their weapons are to leave Ukraine, a reference to the troops that Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending into eastern Ukraine. Moscow has insisted that the Russians in eastern Ukraine are volunteers, but its denial is belied by the sheer number of sophisticated heavy weapons in rebel hands.
All prisoners on both sides are to be released no later than five days after the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Russia has been under pressure from the West to free Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian air force officer who has been on a hunger strike in a Russian prison for more than two months. The Ukrainian government would likely portray her release as a major concession. Russia, however, has charged her with involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, and an influential member of parliament said Thursday that she should stand trial.
In a win for Ukraine, the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which held their own elections last fall, are obliged to hold new elections under Ukrainian law. The vote is to be monitored by international observers under the OSCE.
In a major victory for Russia, restoration of Ukrainian control over the border with Russia in separatist-controlled areas is conditional on Ukraine amending its constitution to grant wide powers to the eastern regions, including the right to form their own police force and trade freely with Russia. The deal sets a target date of the end of the year.
This gives Russia what it wants most: leverage over its western neighbor, which it can use to prevent Ukraine from ever joining NATO. The concession is certain to trigger heated political debate in Ukraine, which could derail implementation.
In another win for Russia, Ukraine is obliged to restore banking services to the rebel regions and resume social payments, including pensions and salaries of those on the government payroll, including doctors and teachers. No deadline was set. The Ukrainian government froze all budget payments in November.
This story is compiled with information from The Associated Press.
Anton Fedyashin of American Univ. discusses Russia-Ukraine cease fire
CCTV America’s Mike Walter interviewed Anton Fedyashin, an expert in Russian, East European and Central Asian studies. He discussed developments in the Minsk peace agreement.