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MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. Although last week’s agreements achieved in Minsk on settling the Ukrainian crisis are constantly under the threat of disruption, Russian experts remain cautiously optimistic about the chances of eventual success.
The document the Сontact Group for Ukrainian settlement signed on February 12 envisages complete ceasefire starting from the midnight of February 15 and the pullback of all heavy armaments away from the line of engagement over two weeks following February 16. Besides, certain steps are to be taken for the sake of a political settlement.
On Sunday, the rival factions accused each other of tens of ceasefire violations, but in general took note of a drastic decline in the number of clashes and bombardments.
Debaltsevo, where up to 8,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped, remains the main "mine" planted under truce. The militias stick firmly to the ceasefire regimen, but they have no intention to let the encircled Ukrainian forces out. As the past few days have shown, the signatories tend to adhere to different interpretations of certain clauses, which is fraught with certain risks, too.
"It is nakedly clear that there are many factors, such as the lack of certainty and controllability, that affect the situation regardless of the parties’ preparedness to observe the terms of truce," the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets quotes the director of the CIS Countries Institute, Konstantin Zatulin, as saying. The way he sees it, the mediator countries must "either reward the parties to the conflict for strict compliance, or punish them for violations by various means at their disposal, starting from consent or refusal to provide financial resources, depending on the mode of behavior, and so on and so forth."
The deputy dean of the World Economics and World Politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Andrey Suzdaltsev, is "moderately optimistic." "It’s just the first stage. The tensions will stay white-hot for another several days," he told TASS. "The situation is the worst in Debaltsevo, but it looks rather strange: everybody keeps talking about that but at the same time avoid taking that into account." Suzdaltsev believes that this complex problem may become settled with the course of life, because Ukrainian troops will have to get out of there somehow in the end.
Suzdaltsev believes that Minsk-2 will be able to stop combat operations only for a while. Minsk-2 will be obviously not enough. Minsk-3 and Minsk-4 will follow, he predicts.
Russia’s influence on the militias should not be overestimated, Suzdaltsev believes. As for the ability of Germany to influence Kiev, "Ukraine in fact is its colony," he remarks. Washington’s political influence on Kiev is huge, too.
"Despite all of the flaws in this agreement — and it is certainly a compromise solution — the situation has been evolving in a positive fashion for the time being," the first deputy director of the CIS Countries Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, told TASS. In his opinion, in terms of content the current arrangement is not very different from last September’s Minsk-1.
The main distinction is in their declaration of support for the agreements Russia, Germany and France undertook to act as guarantors.
"This changes the situation dramatically. In terms of content the document is almost the same as its September predecessor, but the timetable of implementing each item and the inter-relationship of such steps are set far more clearly. And the verification mechanism is stricter.
As he shared his vision of the situation in the longer term, Zharikhin said that it would depend mostly on the balance of force between the "party of war" and the "party of peace." And not so much in Kiev as in Washington.
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