Ukraine 'Ceasefire' Close To Collapse; EU Sanctions To Be Extended To 2016

The Minsk II ceasefire that supposedly ended the fighting in Eastern Ukraine in February 2015 is close to collapse. The ceasefire has been deteriorating steadily in recent months, and this week saw an upsurge in combat between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.

Two additional developments in late May have raised tensions between Kiev and Moscow. Firstly, Ukraine on May 21 suspended military co-operation with Russia, thereby blocking the latter's easy access to the pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova. This could prompt Russia to step up its pressure on Ukraine through military means. Secondly, at the end of May, Ukraine appointed former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of the southern region of Odessa, which has been a flashpoint in the conflict. Given that Russia perceives Saakashvili as a long-standing enemy, and briefly invaded Georgia in August 2008 during his presidency, the appointment is widely regarded as a snub to Moscow.

It is still too soon to proclaim Minsk II as 'dead', but what seems certain is that the EU will extend its sanctions on Russia for a further six months from the end of July to the end of January 2016, when it holds a summit on June 25-26.